What if, when they vote in January, Iraqis choose to institute an Islamic state? “I will be disappointed” if Iraq votes for an Islamic “fundamentalist” government, said President Bush this week, “but democracy is democracy.”
This marks a substantial retreat from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s April 2003 assertion that an “Iranian-style” state in Iraq “is not going to happen.” The source of Rumsfeld’s intransigence was revealed in a question he posted in October 2003: “Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the clerics are recruiting, training and deploying?” He called then for a battle of ideas to combat the teaching of terrorism in Islamic schools and mosques worldwide — a battle to be headed up by a new government information agency.
But after a rough year in Iraq, all that’s left of that idea is “democracy is democracy.” And of course, democracy is democracy, except when it isn’t. If Iraq becomes an Islamic state, there won’t be quite enough democracy to go around for women and non-Muslims. The nation itself, if the Shi’ites gain the upper hand, will democratically choose to be a client state of the Iranian mullahs. And the mosques and madrassas will continue to exercise their democratic privilege to act as poisonous wells of jihadism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism.
If President Bush was serious, his breezy “democracy is democracy” dismissal of an Islamic state in Iraq amounts to a capitulation of elephantine proportions. But it is not an abrupt about-face. The idea that Iraqis voting for an Islamic state would be an innocuous exercise of the right to vote is the perhaps inevitable consequence of the “Islam is peace” mantra that the Administration has retailed incessantly since 9/11. The State Department has steadfastly refused to consider the Islamic sources and motivations of international terrorism, not just since 9/11, but since the Ayatollah Khomeini first began to be a player in Iranian politics in the 1960s — and before that. Given the prevailing wisdom at State and elsewhere in Washington, it is no surprise that Rumsfeld’s “battle of ideas” never got off the ground. Since Bush can’t acknowledge that any elements of Islam actually have anything to do with the global terrorist network, on what basis can he legitimately oppose an Islamic state in Iraq?
A true “war on terror” would never accept a Sharia state in Iraq, because it would recognize that Islamic “fundamentalism” is precisely what leads to “terror.” Jihadists around the world make that abundantly clear every day. Just this week, Magdi Ahmad Hussein of Egypt’s radical Muslim Labor Party declared on Al-Jazeera TV that “both the Qur’an and the Prophet’s biography permit the killing of prisoners. This exists in our Islamic law and in the laws of all nations.” He added: “Those who bomb Fallujah cannot prevent me from bombing Los Angeles.” While Islamic clerics all over denounce the beheadings, they are doing little or nothing even to attempt to persuade people like Magdi Ahmed Hussein that their view of Islam is incorrect — and in fact, the Magdi Ahmad Husseins of the world are operating according to broad and venerable Islamic traditions and teachings that go all the way back to the time of Muhammad, and which Muslim moderates find next to impossible to refute.
But all this is not even part of the public debate in this election season. Political correctness has taken it off the table. John Kerry promises to fight terrorism more effectively than has the President, but says nothing about the need to redefine the conflict — and his overtures to Iranian mullahs and to European leaders who have kowtowed to dictators and Islamic radicals in the Arab League for thirty years indicate that a Kerry Administration would be a fate worse than Bush. At least the incumbent recognizes that there is a war that must be fought.
Whatever the outcome on November 2, terrorists around the world will continue to plot to murder innocent people in the United States and elsewhere. The sooner the occupant of the White House on January 20, 2005, recognizes that they are recruiting in mosques and Islamic schools and fighting to impose Islamic law upon an unwilling world, the sooner he will be able to act to cut off this threat at its source. But unless and until he does so, an Islamic state in Iraq will not be a triumph of democracy, but yet another nail in the coffin of free people in that unfortunate nation and elsewhere.