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World Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card January 30, 2005

Rice, Iraq, and Saudi Subversion

Condoleezza's Confirmation

When Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as secretary of state was opposed by 13 Democratic Senators, it did not imply that she was singularly unsuited to serve in the President's cabinet.

It meant that the Democrats in Congress were determined to be brutally partisan ... at a time when our country is at war, and we need to show our enemies a unified and relentless determination to defeat them.

Instead, those thirteen votes had no effect except to encourage our enemies that if they just go on killing Americans long enough, there's a party in America that will vote against continuing the war.

Once the decision to go to war is made, then the actions of members of Congress must be undertaken with consideration of how our enemies will interpret them.

Congress has a responsibility to make sure that the war is waged properly; but meaningless opposition just to show off, when it will certainly prolong the war, is astonishingly selfish. Even if you think a war is wrong, when American lives are on the line, decent leaders do nothing to signal our enemies that we do not have the unity or resolution to win.

Only thirteen Democrats voted against Condoleezza Rice's confirmation. But these weren't thirteen obscure senators. They included some of the most influential or at least well-known: Kennedy, Kerry, Jeffords, and the ever entertaining Barbara Boxer.

(Won't someone please tell Senator Kerry that most Americans voted for somebody else for President? He doesn't get to choose the Secretary of State.)

But it wasn't just those thirteen. We have seen, time and again, that when Democrats really care about something, they absolutely hold the party line in their voting.

The party leadership obviously made no effort to require Democrats in the Senate to show support for our troops. On the contrary, the Democrats in Congress permitted -- and therefore encouraged -- leading Democrats to demonstrate their contempt for our war effort.

Nor did I hear any of the Democratic leadership chastising these Democrats for bad behavior in time of war.

The message is clear: The Democratic Party puts politics ahead of unity, victory, and the safety of our troops. And that makes a Democrat like me furious with my own party's childish, selfish, dangerous behavior. It's time for Democrats who are sick of such shenanigans to speak up and repudiate these clowns.

The Democratic Party isn't the private property of the lunatic Left.

It's time for us moderate Democrats to take the party back.

*

Iraqi Election

The high turnout in the Iraqi election was remarkable for several reasons:

1. There is no tradition of voting in free elections in Iraq.

2. A huge minority group -- the Sunni Muslims of central Iraq -- were being loudly encouraged to boycott the election.

3. A tiny but dangerous rebel group had threatened to kill anyone who voted. And it was personal: We'll be watching, they said, and we'll know who voted. So it wasn't just terrorism at the polling place that they had to fear; it was assassination afterward.

Yet the people of Iraq turned out to vote in numbers similar to the voting percentages in America and Britain.

Could the message be any clearer? The Iraqi people want democracy. Even if they have to face death to have it.

*

Yet the election turnout was dangerous, too. Because despite the anti-American, anti-democracy bias of the Arab media, the message got through: the citizens of one of the heartland nations of the Muslim world got to vote in a free election where they had a choice of candidates and the government wasn't cheating to control the outcome.

Even if the news reports were all skeptical and slanted, people who live in totalitarian nations learn to read between the lines of news reports. They know what happened, just as they know how the people rejoiced when Saddam was toppled from power.

It encouraged those who hate the murderous fanatical Muslims of Al Qaeda and other Islamist groups:

They can't kill us all, if we act together in favor of freedom.

It encouraged those in other nations who have endured and accommodated dictatorships for their whole lives:

Why should the Iraqis have free elections, and not us?

Here's why this is dangerous, in the short term:

The governments of nations like Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cooperated with us because American support has been a prop to help keep them in power.

Now those governments have to weigh the benefits of American cooperation against the dangers of American interventions that topple dictatorships and lead to democracy.

Those governments have two choices: Either move toward democracy in order to satisfy the newly encouraged longings of their own citizens, or clamp down and start working actively against America's activities in their region.

*

It's the first choice that President Bush is betting most of them will make, and he's probably right about Egypt and Jordan. Their governments have shown that at least sometimes they have the interests of their people at heart.

But it is the second choice that will almost certainly be made by Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Not that Syria has been helping us -- indeed, they are the most active Arab nation in the support of terrorism, and there is no question that both Israel and Iraq would be much safer places if Syria had a change of government.

But, keenly aware of how easily American troops could defeat their military and topple their government, Syria has been keeping a low profile, behaving themselves ... sort of.

Saudi Arabia, however, has been a key support for American action in the Middle East. Their cooperation has made military actions far more likely to succeed. And, indirectly, their oil policies have kept the world economy in equilibrium, more or less, allowing us the prosperity to be able to afford this war.

The trouble is that Saudi Arabia is a very complicated little country.

*

The Saudi Problem

Saudi Arabia occupies the Holy Land of Islam -- one could say it's the Muslim Vatican, but with oil.

But the Saudi government is not just Muslim -- it's Wahhabist. This is a fanatical sect that preaches holy war and the violent enforcement of Muslim law on believers and unbelievers alike.

The only difference between the Saudi government and Al Qaeda is that Al Qaeda rejects cooperation with the West, while the Saudis think the more effective path is to cooperate with the West on the surface while proselytizing for Wahhabism, preaching hate for and murder of all opponents of Wahhabist ideology.

Their ultimate goal is identical, and even the methodology they preach is the same. They differ only on timing and openness.

*

Saudi Subversion in America

Freedom House, which monitors the state of freedom in all countries, with particular emphasis on religious and press freedom (without which, of course, there is no freedom at all), has taken on the project of monitoring Saudi government publications that are disseminated abroad.

Their 89-page report, "Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques" (as summarized by Katherine Clad in the Washington Times of 29 January 2005), accuses the Saudi government of "telling Muslims to hate Christians and Jews and to kill any Muslim who converts to another religion."

This comes from translations of Saudi government literature collected from American mosques during the past year.

Muslims are encouraged to "behave as if on a mission behind enemy lines."

We'd already have known about this if Islam weren't getting a free ride in our politically correct press -- or if most papers weren't so shortsighted, or reporters so lazy, as not to go to the trouble of translating from Arabic into English.

It's that laziness (or bias) that Yasser Arafat always counted on, when he said one thing in English and the opposite in Arabic, and expected not to be caught by the western media. He was rarely disappointed.

We keep hearing that the Saudi government fears democracy -- and we should fear it too -- because if the people of Saudi Arabia voted, they would elect a government far more fanatical and anti-American than the current one.

That would actually be impossible. There cannot be a government more fanatical in its hatred of everything America stands for than the Saudi government.

*

Remember that Saudi Arabia is a country where visiting Christian workers have to hold their church meetings in secret and conceal their scriptures. We're not talking about proselytizing -- we're talking about just holding church meetings. Because the Saudi government allows (or encourages) vigilantes who would beat up or kill anyone openly practicing any religion but Islam.

These are the same groups that beat up or kill women who appear in public in western dress, with their faces exposed.

The Saudi government does not keep these groups in check. It does not teach moderation. It preaches the worst sort of fanaticism, including murder and, potentially, espionage and sabotage in western countries.

The only thing that would change, if the Saudi government fell, is their temporary policy of accommodating the West on oil matters.

Oh, and of course the Saudi oillionaires who are really hypocrites, living like westerners abroad and only obeying Shari'a when at home in Arabia, would be cut off from the source of their wealth.

The trouble is that we have, stupidly and shortsightedly, remained dependent, not just on Saudi oil, but also on Saudi manipulation of the oil market so that prices stay low.

So even as the Iraqi elections are a destabilizing force in Saudi Arabia, we can't risk letting the Saudi government fall.

That is the weak link in President Bush's announced intention to encourage democracy in all nations.

There is plenty of evidence for the existence of large majorities or pluralities of moderate Muslims who long for a peaceful, tolerant, free government in Jordan and Egypt.

But there is no evidence for the existence of any such moderate majority or even plurality in Saudi Arabia. Three generations of relentless propaganda have done their work.

*

So we are walking a tightrope in our relationship with Saudi Arabia. We have no choice but to live with the present Saudi government for the sake of oil supply and prices -- and noninterference with American military activity in Iraq.

Yet Saudi Arabia is actively supporting murder, espionage, and sabotage in America.

Remember that these publications weren't intercepted at the border. They were found in American mosques, where they were being distributed or at least made available, presumably to young Muslim men who are the ones most likely to embrace the romance of a holy war.

In short, they are recruiting terrorists in America.

And we are at war with the portion of the Muslim world that embraces bloodshed and rejects religious tolerance of any kind in their holy war with the rest of the world.

I suspect most American Muslims regard these publications with contempt or embarrassment.

But the point is, they are there. They are available.

*

Why don't American imams or ordinary Muslims reject these publications and refuse to accept them from Saudi Arabia?

Any such stand would mark that imam or that Muslim congregation as "enemies of Islam" in the eyes of Wahhabists and other fanatical Islamists.

Chances are very good that any such rejection of these publications would result in assassination.

Or maybe they'd just lose funding. People bow to many kinds of threats.

*

It's ironic that a religious group that absolutely rejects religious freedom or even religious tolerance -- Wahhabism and Islamism -- shelters its subversive, anti-American activities under the protection of the First Amendment.

But as Abraham Lincoln pointed out during the Civil War: The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

When our nation is under dire threat, and our enemies are using our very freedoms as a protection for their subversive activities, then we have to make temporary exceptions to those freedoms.

Those exceptions always go too far. The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; the anti-sedition laws of World War I; even the Alien and Sedition Acts early in American history -- these are black marks in our history.

But they were all temporary. Not one of them resulted in a permanent curtailment of freedom. We do not have a history of "slippery slopes," where curtailment of freedoms leads to a permanent loss of those freedoms.

Instead we have a very clear history of vigilance, and the moment the threat is over, we get rid of the onerous exceptions to our Constitutional freedoms.

There are times when national survival and safety trump particular instances of particular freedoms. Geraldo Rivera doesn't have a right to draw a map for the camera, showing where our troops are going for their next mission.

And a foreign government does not have a right to distribute subversive literature in America that is designed to recruit people for anti-American activities in time of war and encourage murder of people who exercise the American freedom to change religious affiliation according to our conscience.

It's as simple as that. Saudi Arabia is a foreign country. It does not have any freedom of the press within its own borders, and, not being a citizen of the United States, it does not have the right to distribute subversive, seditious, and criminal instructions to potential agents in our country.

*

The obvious analogy is with Communist subversion in the United States, mostly before but also during the Cold War.

Anti-Communism got a bad name because of the excesses of political grandstanders like Joe McCarthy and some on the House Un-American Activities Committee.

But lost in the anti-anti-Communist rhetoric of today are a few simple facts:

Nations actually did fall to Communist subversion.

The Communists that ruled in Russia actually did have a serious program of recruiting agents in Western nations and directing them to engage in activities designed to weaken or take over Western governments.

Alger Hiss really was a Communist agent, even as he served as a trusted, top-level American official, Roosevelt's right-hand man at Yalta.

Hundreds of American Leftist intellectuals really were absolutely obedient to Moscow, even when it amounted to absurd compliance with Stalin's non-aggression pact with Hitler. So we could see that there were substantial numbers of supposedly smart Americans who were under the effective control of a foreign power.

Just because we won in the end does not mean that the danger was never real, or never needed to be actively opposed.

These subversive activities, however, did not survive exposure. They could only continue in a free country when they could be kept secret from the people.

*

So as we once again face active subversion and recruitment by a foreign power inside our borders during time of war, here's one place to start:

It's time for anyone -- a church or a group or an individual -- receiving funding from the Saudi government or from Wahhabist sources to be registered as agents of a foreign nation ... and publically listed.

Any imam who allows this hate literature from Saudi Arabia to be available in his mosque should be listed as a foreign agent.

This is not an onerous burden. Lobbyists hired to represent foreign nations' interests before Congress and U.S government agencies already register as foreign agents.

I'm simply suggesting that there should not be an exception for religious leaders.

After all, American Christians wishing to operate as missionaries in other countries outside the West are invariably registered and must have the permission of the government to operate inside their borders. And those American missionaries are not advocating murder of apostates and subversion of the local government!

*

Here is a potential second step:

It should be required that any publication imported into the United States in Arabic should have an accurate side-by-side English translation in the same publication. Publications in Arabic alone should be turned back at the border.

This runs up against the problem that in Muslim eyes, the only true Quran is the Arabic original; many believe that translations are evil on their face.

So the Quran itself should be the sole exception. As long as it consists of the Quran and only the Quran, it can be entirely in Arabic. But any commentary must be in Arabic and English.

*

In other words, what I'm advocating is openness. Let us require that the people distributing Wahhabist doctrines be listed as agents of the Saudi government -- it's the truth, and if they aren't ashamed of what they're doing, there should be no problem. We don't have a national policy of murdering people because of religious disagreements.

And the publications themselves should be intelligible to non-readers of Arabic. Let them have full freedom of speech -- as long as the rest of us are free to see what they're saying.

The only penalty, then, would be for concealing their activities or illegally hiding their words behind the Arabic alphabet and language.

If the Saudi government can't tolerate daylight on their activities in America, that's a confession that they are intent on secretly subverting America while pretending to be our ally.

Meanwhile, Americans should be slow to judge their Muslim neighbors -- for them, the threat of murder is very real, and open opposition to these publications and ideas would surely set them up. One lone person speaking up against them would be extremely dangerous.

Requiring openness will make it easier for moderate Muslims to act in large numbers to oppose these subversive publications. If they are not just individuals, but the large mass of American Muslims acting together, they can far more easily show that they have embraced the American Constitution and all its liberties by rejecting all such anti-American and criminal propaganda and ceasing to tolerate it within their mosques.

But if the American Muslim community insists on their right to distribute that literature secretly, we'll know something important and surprising about their intentions.

For most American Muslims, this will not be a burden even remotely comparable to the curtailments of freedom that some people endured in the Civil War, World War I, or World War II. It's not really a curtailment at all.

I suspect most American Muslims will be glad to get Wahhabism out of their mosques. Even if it means forgoing Saudi funding for their religious activities.

But this is a war we're in -- a war that Muslim fanatics brought to our soil, where they murdered thousands of Americans in an unprovoked attack on civilians.

There is nothing in the Constitution that should require us to allow foreign nations to recruit young American Muslims to "behave as if on a mission behind enemy lines" without at least demanding that they be open about what they're doing.

Can anyone doubt that every single murderer in those jets on 9/11 had been taught precisely the doctrines put forth in publications like these?

Shouldn't we at least make it potentially embarrassing for our enemies to recruit Americans to join in their war against freedom?

Copyright © 2005 by Orson Scott Card.


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