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Viewpoint: Invincibilty and irony

July 1, 1993

Viewpoint: Invincibilty and irony

By Frank Schier

Invincibility and irony

By Frank Schier

Editor & Publisher

Invincible 1. That cannot be overcome, unconquerable.

Irony 1. A method of humorous or sarcastic expression in which the intended meaning of the words used is the direct opposite of their usual sense: as, the speaker was using irony when he said that the stupid plan was “very clever.” 2. an instance of this. 3. a combination of circumstances or a result that is the opposite of what might be expected or considered appropriate: as, it was an irony of fate that the fireboat burned and sank.

We now are flying through the night skies of Afghanistan to retaliate for the acts of terror that blasted out of this nation’s skies on the morning of Sept. 11.

More than 6,000 people of many nations died or are missing in those attacks, and now one of our cruise missiles has hit a UN aid building in Afghanistan, killing four people and wounding several others. More “collateral damage,” the slinky euphemism for “dead, innocent civilians,” is certain, despite all of our careful planning.

Our central planner, President George W. Bush, shared equal time on television around the world with terrorist Osama bin Laden, the night we began bombing Afghanistan.

The domain of bin Laden, a barren, bombed-out landscape filled with mountains, deserts, landmines and ancient cities, protects him and contrasts with our spacious skies, fields of grain and state-of-the-art metropolises.

Our predominantly Christian nation produces food and weapons, which simultaneously fall from the skies on the Islamic nation of Afghanistan.

Recently, we gave the Taliban regime $43 million for the humanitarian cause and to fight the heroin trade. The heroin continues to flow, and our money may have financed elements of the Sept. 11 attack and the Taliban weapons being used against us today. Add to that aid, monetary contributions from U.S. Islamic and Palestinian charities as well. Afghans continue to starve, and Palestinian suicide bombers die and kill.

Moslem suicide bombers, and the core of bin Laden’s followers, belong to the fundamentalist Wahhabism strain of Islam, which emerged about the same time this nation was founded, two centuries ago.

Wahhabism, which could be called “stripped-down Islam,” practices short

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prayers in unadorned mosques devoid of any icons, the worship of which is seen as idolatry, hence the Taliban’s destruction of Afghanistan’s famous Hindu Buddhas.

Yet, we once had something in common with the Afghanis, the Cold War battle against the Soviet Union. We helped them; now we fear them. We trained them; now we fight them. We helped them to fight the Soviets; now Russia is helping us fight them.

In the 19th century, our eternal ally, the British, whom we revolted against, supported the Wahhabi Arabs in their revolt against the Turks. Now the British are helping us bomb Wahhabis in tribal Afghanistan, which they, like the Soviets, failed to conquer.

The tribal leader Ibn Saud, “the founder of the Saudi Kingdom,” made Wahhabism the national religion; and yet, the bin Laden family has supposedly disowned their black-sheep son, a Saudi Arabian national, Osama, for his actions, which come from his Wahhabi beliefs.

Oddly, while bin Laden praised the effects of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S., he made no formal declaration taking credit for the attacks. At the same time, the Bush administration will not make public the evidence it has as to bin Laden’s involvement because of “national security.”

The bin Laden family has made its fortune in the construction business, and their son has made his fame in the destruction business. Some of the bin Laden family live in Boston and have contributed to Harvard, a center of Western learning.

Osama bin Laden rejects the sensual Western world, which he believes still has colonial designs on the Mideast. One of Osama bin Laden’s primary reasons for destruction is that the U.S. or “infidels” have military bases on the same soil as the two holiest sites of Islam: Medina, the site of Mohammed’s tomb, and Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed and Islam’s major pilgrimage site. For all bin Laden’s rejection of the West, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world, particularly in the United States. U.S. Moslems make pilgrimages to Mecca.

The real irony in the clash of the old and new, Mideast and the Western world, traditionalism and modernism, is that neither is invincible, or unconquerable, yet both believe they are exactly that.

Both sides see each other as a direct threat to their values and interests, and they may be right. However, only dialogue, education, nonviolence, redress under law and human rights will prevent the kind of bloodshed that occurred the last time Islam swept to the Western world in Spain in the eighth century.

Ironically again, many of the good products of that bloody exchange, such as our numerical system, advances in math, algebra, medicine, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, navigation and mapmaking, are being employed in the warfare today.

Both sides must realize the irony and the fruitlessness of killing for the Creator and the irony and the fruitlessness of supporting totalitarianism in the interests of democracy. Only then will the invincibility of human foibles start to be overcome.

The lust for economic control must be cast aside. Both sides must realize the freedom of religion and freedom of cultural identity. Nations, like individuals, are unique and therein lies their beauty and value; while we exist in one world, the world cannot be threatened or dominated by one individual, nation or group.

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