Krieg: Politics As
War By Other Means
By Lila Rajiva
11 March, 2006
Clausewitz on his head may be the best way to understand the controversy
provoked by Jyllands-Posten. This is no first amendment issue at all.
The rash decision to publish the cartoons of Mohammed cannot be defended
as freedom of speech for a simple reason - these cartoons are not speech
but acts. Acts of provocation and belligerence. They are the opening
- or perhaps continuing - rounds of war.
How so? Don’t the cartoons
express an idea and isn’t expression of our thoughts the most
fundamental freedom of our western selves? Perhaps.
But even if we concede this,
the fact is that even under our own constitution, there have always
been time, place, and manner restrictions to freedom of expression.
You cannot yell fire in a crowded theater and plead artistic license;
you cannot burn a cross in the backyard of a fellow American and claim
that inquiring minds want to know.
In both cases, the context
gives the game away; it tells us that the right being claimed is not
the freedom to speak but the license to injure.
As to time: has there been
a worse time in the history of the world to blasphemously caricature
the founder and prophet of the religion of more than a billion people?
War in progress in Iraq, war threatened in Iran, anti-Muslim slander
and racial filth polluting the airwaves sanctioned by the power brokers
of the world, the obscene torture of Abu Ghraib ineluctably branded
on the consciousness of Muslim nations, with Baghdad in cinders and
ashes, the treasures of Mesopotamia ransacked, plundered and laid waste
as not even Genghis Khan could have laid waste.
As to place: in post-Christian,
militantly secular Europe, amid a rising tide of anti-immigrant zealotry,
abetted by the brazen complicity of European governments in the rendition
of Muslim prisoners and the petty bigotry of European governments toward
the head scarves of little Muslim girls, in a smoldering keg of xenophobia,
migrant joblessness, despair, and alienation. With threats of sanctions
and nuclear strikes ringing in the ears. In a right-wing, anti-immigrant,
anti-assimilation Danish newspaper with historical ties to fascism.
As to manner: crudely, without
explanation or rationale, unsoftened by artistic depth, naked to even
the most incurious eye, flaunting, taunting, an affront impossible to
hide from, in the most public of media, without qualification or contrition
and in hypocritical contrast to the servility and frantic haste with
which even the meekest criticism of Israel or Jews is withdrawn.
On all three contextual counts
then, the claim to free speech fails.
Were Jyllands-Posten really
concerned with free speech, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler who
submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons about the resurrection of
in April 2003 would not have been turned down. But he was.
Had Flemming Rose, the cultural
editor of Jyllands-Posten, really been defending provocative opinion,
he would agree to publish pictures of Ariel Sharon strangling a Palestinian
baby. But he would not.
Were Europe’s defense
of free speech genuine and not merely hypocritical or extremely confused
- take your pick, historian David Irving as well as several others would
not be languishing in jail in Austria for questioning the number of
Jews killed in the Holocaust. But he is. (1)
Remember that the West, which
is now so exercised about the value of uninhibited speech, lectured
Mohammed Mahathir for commenting- rather tamely - about the influence
of the Jewish people in world affairs. Remember that Mahathir was condemned
as anti-Semitic, a label used automatically to shut down any criticism
of pro-Israeli policies.
Remember that Holocaust Denial
- as it is called - is a criminal offense entailing imprisonment in
seven European countries and the EU itself. And even venturing anywhere
near that terrain is liable to end the careers of promising authors
The issue is not free speech.
But neither is it hypocrisy
- which surely exists in every society, Islamic as well.
The issue is power. Who has
it and who hasn’t.
Were Iran and Syria bristling
with nuclear weapons like America and Israel and were Saudi Arabia shooting
spy satellites into outer space, Jyllands-Posten would be performing
a public service. Were hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers camped
out around Washington, DC, and American civilians being rounded up and
raped in their thousands, we would fall over ourselves to address the
terrors of Islamic fundamentalism. Were Christianity being reviled as
innately murderous, the Cross and the Torah being flushed down toilets,
and yarmulkes banned in schools, were the Smithsonian in ruins and the
Louvre burned to the ground, were the Sistine Chapel riddled with bullets
and George Bush trapped in a spider hole in the ground, we would fight
to the death for the right to vilify Islamism.
But in fact, the ideology
that most terrorizes the world is not Islamic - as yet - but Western
and the speech that most needs to be heard today is the one that challenges
the ideology of Western domination.
Not the speech that reinforces
it and lays the foundation for its extension.
From context, then, the claim
of free speech for the cartoons fails.
And in substance too, the
Because of decades of misuse
by corporate advertisers and commercial pornographers, we forget that
the right to free speech is cardinally a right to the expression of
political opinion not merely of any opinion. It is meant to protect
political dissent, especially dissent that is vulnerable to persecution
because it is unpopular. And so, identifying free speech is not simply
a mechanical matter of checking off a list that trumps everything else
at all times but of discriminating between the competing values and
demands of groups.
That, of course, is the definition
Practically, what this means
is that while we defend the right of Aryan supremacists to march through
Skokie - under certain strict constraints - we do so only because they
have limited power in a society that protects its ethnic minorities.
We could not sanely defend the right of neo-Nazis to free speech were
Aryan Nation really in power in the White House and civil laws in disarray.
Instead, it would be our moral obligation as citizens to stand up and
denounce neo-Nazism as an attack on the free speech and indeed the right
to exist of others.
In other words, if the competing
values at stake are my right to exist and your right to express your
racist views, my right to exist takes precedence always and everywhere.
When the right to existence of Muslims is at stake, in Iraq, in Palestine,
in Gujarat, and in Europe too - then the right to racist anti-Muslim
free speech must take a back seat in those places.
When Islamism becomes the
dominant oppressor, at that time, never fear, we will take up the cudgels
against it and support atheists with as much fervor.
It is a matter of discrimination
and wisdom, not of hard and fast rules. This should be self -evident.
The truth is that my right
always faces off against your right and the obverse of any one’s
claim is always someone else’s imposition. And common sense should
tell us that rights always need tempering with an equal responsibility.
But in the often confused
political culture of the secular West, fundamentalism about rights easily
rivals the most medieval religious bigotry. Rights are worshipped as
theological absolutes, idolatrously. We let them grow like weeds so
rankly that they strangle even the flowers and run riot untethered by
context, common sense, or courtesy. We unleash them in public as assertions
of group hostility. We assert them outrageously and legalistically in
a manner fundamentally antithetical to politics, which after all - unlike
law - is a practical art, not a theological dictate.
Politics is possibility and
compromise. But modern rights - in this case the group rights of secularists
- are sentences handed down by a bewigged judge, divine and non-negotiable,
flat declarations with punitive intent. Any wonder that today politics
has lost the flavor of politics altogether and become an extension of
war - that war in which the battlefield is everywhere and the enemy
War was not always so. In
Clausewitz’s dialectic, war as brute force always alternated with
war as policy by other means, limited in scope and driven by attainable
goals. His battlefield had room for passion and chance but also for
rational calculation; it mixed bloody self-aggrandizement with the prudent
attainment of social goals.
But today, self-aggrandizement
not only elbows out rationality and idealism completely, it does so
while posing as rationality and idealism. We wade neck-deep into a criminal
war while lecturing the world shrilly about the universality, rationality,
and humanity of our goals.
Mere self-interest would
have its limits. Mere greed or even vanity would be satiated at some
point. But a rationality that claims to be universal, to be always and
everywhere supreme, has an insatiable appetite to devour everything
in its way. It cannot coexist peacefully with any other culture or world
view but must impose itself on them all at every turn, while simultaneously
crying self-defense. We pose as victims, even while our commerce and
our culture roll with our military like a gaudy juggernaut over the
But what kind of a juggernaut?
Unending imperial adventures have led to the militarization of politics
but a militarization with a difference. Like war today, politics disguises
its infinite lust for blood under the smiling face of reason; but also
like war today, politics wages its most important campaigns not on terra
firma at all but in the invisible battlefield of the mind. American
intelligence may keep watch over the globe sleeplessly, it might probe
the heavens and test the depths of the ocean, it might “own the
night”; but it is in inner not outer space that the war is won
or lost today.
William Lind, a cultural
conservative and military analyst, has described the transformation
of military strategy in the modern West from line and column attacks,
to the massed fire-power and synchronized order of World War One, to
the war of disruption and maneuver of the Germans - the blitz-krieg,
and finally to non-state war between cultures in which mental and moral
force takes precedence - which he calls fourth-generation war. Americans,
he thinks, have no idea that in the new mental war, the political leaders
of the West, pampered and protected from the wars they initiate, have
none of the moral charisma of a leader like Osama who lives ascetically
in caves and mountains, subjecting himself to the same rigors that his
followers undergo. The West he argues is losing the moral war to Islam
from lack of understanding of the role played by the mental and psychological
element in warfare. (2)
Lind is somewhat misleading
here. If the West is losing the moral war, it is not because it hasn’t
grasped the power of the mental element in war. It has grasped it only
too well. Millions, indeed billions, have been poured into both corporate
and political propaganda since the days of Edward Bernays and Walter
Lippman. Decades of research into mind control, behavioral modification,
and psychological torture have yielded their strange fruits today in
the perverse cruelties of Abu Ghraib and the staged histories of PR
firms. The airwaves and the Internet are clogged with the fog of fourth
generation war as intelligence hirelings masquerade as journalists and
poison public perception with lies and distortions.
In fourth generation war,
there is no distinction between state and society, soldier and civilian
The psyche of the target population is attacked as viciously an that
of an enemy on the battlefield through elaborate psychological operations
and black propaganda which have the sole object of humiliating and destroying
the sense of self. Of wiping out cultural identity. This was the technique
at work in the sexual torture of Abu Ghraib and Gunatanamo and it is
the technique at work in the cartoons...which are of a piece with the
desecration of the Koran, the shaving of beards, and the sexual taunting
and torture of men and women that took place in the prisons.
It is not for nothing that
Rafael Patai’s “The Arab Mind,” has remained “the
most popular and widely-read book on the Arabs in the U.S. military”
in the training of special forces. Patai’s racist tract argues
that force and humiliation are the only measures that the “Arab
No - in the confrontation
between the West and the “Rest’, if the “Rest”
commands the moral high ground, it is not because of lack of Western
propaganda, but because the moral high ground cannot - yet - be taken
or held by propaganda alone but needs reality to back it up. It is not
for lack of propaganda that the world is outraged by the Iraq war but
because Iraq in fact was the innocent victim of a criminal attack. It
is not perception that drives global anger against America - and the
West - but reality. The reality of what the American empire has done
and continues to do in the Middle East and other places, sometimes directly,
sometimes through the murderous company it keeps.
From that perspective, the
publication of the cartoons looks very little like free speech and very
much like an attempt to change the moral equation between the West and
Islam. It perfectly fits the pattern of covert actions well-known to
us from the Cold War. Sophisticated actions such as NATO’s Gladio-style
European operations whose real objective was to discredit social democracy.
Just so, the cartoons appear
to be an offensive intended to justify Western anti-Muslim bigotry.
But what is less remarked
is that the cartoons also - and perhaps primarily - appear to be a propaganda
offensive directed against not only Muslim but Western populations;
they seem calculated to negate the ever increasing disrepute of the
Iraq war here, to retake the moral high ground, and prime us for a new
war against Iran.
Start with this hypothesis,
and the evidence leaps out:
1.Jyllands-Posten, the daily
which first published twelve caricatures of Mohammad on September 30,
2005 was infamous for its ties to Italian fascism and German Nazism
in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1933 it even argued for the introduction
of a dictatorship in Denmark. Today it is linked to the Danish People’s
Party which has publicly stated that Muslims cannot be assimilated into
Danish society and has called Islam a “cancerous ulcer”
and a “terrorist movement.” Notoriously racist DPP chair
Pia Kjaersgaard once stated, “There is only one civilization,
and that is ours.” This was in the 1990s when even the ruling
Social Democrats reacted to social tensions with xenophobic campaigns.
The DPP is now part of the right-wing coalition government of Prime
Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen which lined up behind the Bush administration
on the Iraq war and sent a contingent of troops there despite the vehement
opposition of the Danish people. Shortly before the cartoons, J-P ran
an exposé about a purported Muslim death-list of Jewish names
- which turned out to be a complete fabrication.(5)
2. J-P’s editor invited
forty cartoonists to draw images of the Prophet Muhammad, (proscribed
in Islamic law as blasphemous) with an explicitly provocative motive
- “to examine whether people would succumb to self-censorship,
as we have seen in other cases when it comes to Muslim issues.”
The cartoons included one showing the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban
in the shape of a smoking bomb, another with Muhammad on a cloud telling
an approaching line of suicide bombers that he had run out of virgins
with which to reward them, and a third showing him grinning wildly,
holding a knife and surrounded by heavily-veiled women.. When Danish
Muslims did not react in the first week following publication, a reaction
was explicitly sought
3.. Next, Prime Minister
Rasmussen refused to meet with ambassadors of 22 Muslim countries who
wanted to vent their objections to the cartoons, although they only
wanted an apology, not action. Pia Kjaersgaard denounced protesters
publicly as national traitors. At the end of January, Saudi Arabia and
Syria recalled their ambassadors and the Saudis started a consumer boycott
of Danish goods that wiped out the Middle East sales of Arla Foods,
the second largest dairy producer in Europe. Only then did the Danish
government and J-P issued statements of regret, although still defending
their decision to publish.
Also in January, a Norwegian
magazine was the first to republish the drawings, followed by the French
France Soir which editorialized: “Enough lessons from these reactionary
bigots.” Other French papers, including the liberal Libération
and Le Monde, followed Firmly behind the republication were French Interior
Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who helped incite last year’s anti-police
riots in the Muslim immigrant suburbs of France by calling residents
“****” and “gangrene” and who with President
Jacques Chirac and the Socialist, Communist parties, and the “far
left” Lutte Ouvrière imposed a ban on Muslim girls wearing
head scarves in public schools. In Holland, one of those who supported
and reprinted the cartoons was Geert Wilders, a Dutch parliamentarian
who has proposed a law banning the burqa. Much of Europe followed in
what looks like remarkably good coordination: papers in Norway, France,
Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Iceland
and Hungary, both conservative and liberal. (6)
4. Flemming Rose, the editor,
has proven ties to America’s Islamophobic neo-conservatives. In
October 2004, he traveled to Philadelphia to visit Daniel Pipes, the
neo-conservative historian who holds views to the right of Ariel Sharon
and argues that the path to Middle East peace lies through total Israeli
military victory. Pipes opposes the “road map,” Oslo, as
well as the reform of the Palestinian Authority, and heads his own think-tank,
the Middle East Forum, which has “defined and facilitated”
American interests in the region since 1995. He hypes the threat of
Islamism by equating it with communism and fascism, following directly
in the footsteps of his father, Richard, one of the leading hypesters
of the Soviet threat in the 1970s. Pipes fils claims to have seen the
light on the subject when he witnessed the Iranian revolution in 1979
and attacks on American interests in the Middle East (read oil), but
his language is replete with the covertly racist codes of the domestic
culture wars, in which rising immigrant birth rates are used to fan
racial anxieties among Caucasians. CAIR, the Council on American Islamic
Relations, claims that many Muslims consider Pipes the most virulent
Islamophobe in America. For him, America's Muslims are the enemy within.
In the military, he calls for their unrestricted racial profiling, while
in academia, his Campus Watch web-site smears anyone who criticizes
Israel. He also runs the Anti-Islamist Institute (AII) - which targets
the legal (yes, legal) activities of Muslims and the Centre for Islamic
Pluralism (CIP) directed against the Wahhabi religious sect. He has
publicly called Muslims “brown- skinned peoples cooking strange
foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene”
From the glowing tone of
his profile of the man, Flemming Rose seems to be in total agreement.
This is not insignificant.
Pipes is a man indisputably in the first circle of policy making in
the US. He approved the infamous "Clean Break" paper - written
in 1996 as a policy advisory to Binyamin Netanyahu by a team whose members
are all current or former Bush administration people. It included Douglas
Feith, Paul Wolfowitz as well as David and Meyrav Wurmser. “Clean
Break” calls for the overthrow of both the Syrian and Iranian
regimes to secure Israelis dominance in the region.
We know how far we’ve
already gone in that direction:
The suspect assassination
of Lebanon’s Hariri, the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon,
the threat of sanctions dangled continuously over Syria despite its
exemplary help in the US War on Terror, the riots over the assassination
and then the cartoons (some claim fomented by third parties) - all now
work steadily toward the toppling of the secular Baath government of
And Iran. The escalation
of bullying over Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons capabilities,
the row over President Ahmadinejad’s comment that Europeans should
give Israel a piece of Europe, the repeated lies about Iranian intentions
in the region - all laying the groundwork for an imminent strike by
Israel on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Muslim anger may have erupted
- with stoking - over a handful of cartoons.
But the cartoons are not
The problem is the West’s
neo-colonial war on the Middle East.
(1) “Rotten in Denmark:
Flemming Rose and the clash of civilizations,” Justin Raimondo,
Antiwar, February 8, 2006.
(2) “Understanding Fourth Generation War,” William S. Lind,
Antiwar, January 15, 2004
(3) Rafael Patai, “The Arab Mind,” (1973). The book was
reprinted by Hatherleigh Press in 2002 in time for the Iraq war with
an enthusiastic introduction by Norwell “Tex” De Atkine,
a former army colonel and head of Middle East Studies at Fort Bragg
who called it “essential reading” and claimed that at Fort
Bragg it “formed the basis of my cultural instruction.”
(4) “The Pentagon’s NATO Option,” Lila Rajiva, Common
Dreams, February 10, 2005.
(5) “Denmark and Jyllands-Posten: The background to a provocation,”
Peter Schwarz, World Socialist Web Site, February 10, 2006.
(6) “European media publish anti-Muslim cartoons: An ugly and
Editorial Board, World Socialist Web Site : News & Analysis : Europe,
February 4 2006.
(7) “The Muslims are Coming! The Muslims are Coming!” Daniel
Pipes, The National Review, November 19, 1990. Pipes quotes a number
of European politicians on the immigrant problem in Europe. One can
sympathize with countries strained by immigration and immigrant crime
while at the same time recognizing that these problems are not caused
by immigrants alone but by irrational policies that work against successful
(8) [Flemming Rose interview:] “The Threat of Islamism,”
by Flemming Rose, Jyllands-Posten, October 29, 2004