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Archive for the ‘Taliban’ Category

“We can’t lose focus” after Bin Laden’s death, said the former Secretary of State, the woman who helped author the most costly loss of focus in the history of America’s fight against terrorism.   Of course, Condi Rice had no earthly idea when she spouted her “mushroom cloud” warning years ago that Saddam Hussein had long given up his nuclear program, that his supposed link with Al Qaeda was a fabrication.  But facts didn’t matter as much back in 2002, when fear-mongering was a powerful tool against a fearful America.  Afghanistan was “pacified” but Bin Laden had slipped away at Tora Bora.  America needed a new target.  Preferably a nation-state that would showcase America’s superior conventional military strength.  Something that had borders and didn’t move, like those pesky, shadowy jihadists who were the ones we were really after.  And so, Iraq became the Bush administration’s Weapon of Mass Distraction from the real objectives of the “War on Terror”: killing and capturing terrorists.  A trillion dollars and 5,000 American lives later, Condi Rice goes on ABC News to warn that we can’t lose focus.

Too late.  Al Qaeda hasn’t been in Afghanistan in sufficient numbers in years.  It’s common knowledge that the organization metastasized long ago into more potent franchises in Iraq, Yemen and North Africa.  Even the top leadership of the Taliban are not in Afghanistan.  The Quetta Shura and Mullah Omar- much like Osama Bin Laden until he was taken out unilaterally- operate under the protection of their government patrons, in Pakistan.  Well then, you ask, why does the West still have 140,000 troops in Afghanistan propping up a Karzai government that is reviled by its own people at a time when corrupt strong men across the Muslim world are being toppled by popular revolutions?  Hmmmm.  Because we’ve already thrown so much blood and treasure at our Afghan investment already?  Because if we withdraw now, the world will think we are weak and unable to finish the job?  Because we don’t want Afghanistan to become a staging ground for terrorist attacks on our country again?

These questions and their very structure are more illuminating than the answers could ever be.  The subject is always “us”, the object, “Afghanistan”, when it should be the other way around if we are looking for viable solutions for, namely, Afghanistan.  Long ago, Afghanistan ceased being about Afghanistan and became more about America and our selfish insecurities as a nation.  The longest war in our nation’s history remains unfocused, unsustainable, and detrimental to our nation’s standing and security in ways that are only now becoming visible.  Only recently, American soldiers have admitted to forming kill teams that have murdered Afghan civilians, claiming body parts as take-home trophies.  It’s tough to reconcile a COIN strategy which emphasizes winning local hearts and minds with testosterone-laden kids who just wanna “get some”, taking matters into their own hands when they can’t do what they were trained to do.  Military and civilian agencies continue to coordinate poorly in an increasingly violent Afghan reconstruction environment and have entirely different plans and priorities for resources.  Mass prison breaks and friendly fire attacks on NATO personnel occur with growing frequency.  The annual cost of the Afghan security forces we are training and equipping dwarfs the entire Afghan national budget.  What part of this is about building a nation that can sustain itself?

All this at a time when the arc of fundamental change in the Muslim world is shifting decisively West, towards the Arab heartland where Al Qaeda’s extremist ideology was born.  This is where the fight against Islamic fundamentalism will be won, in the rejuvenated streets of Cairo, Tunis and Damascus.  Unfortunately, that struggle for the most part is not kinetic warfare but the hard slog of compromise and negotiation between civil societies and political parties.  Therefore, America isn’t interested.  What’s profitable about civic development?  What congressional district will it create jobs for?  What Pentagon weapon system will it support?  Mercy Corps doesn’t make campaign contributions.

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“Barack Obama has now fired more cruise missiles than all other Nobel Peace Prize winners combined.”

It’s good for a laugh.  A cheap laugh.  The blogger who wrote this clearly doesn’t have any appreciation for the reality that confronts American presidents on a daily basis.  No doubt he or she also did not have any family in Benghazi last week, when a desert breeze stood between Qaddafi’s tank columns and the certain massacre of the city’s population.  Can anyone- Arab, European, American- honestly compare our intervention in Libya in 2011 to Iraq in 2003 or Afghanistan in 2001?  Really?  Have we become that morally unhinged?  Iraq and Afghanistan were all about an insecure, fearful United States lashing out at nations because it didn’t have the means to locate and punish the trans-national movement responsible for 9/11.  Libya is about a coalition of mainly Western powers reluctantly resorting to force to protect ordinary people from their own self-appointed leader.  Do NATO countries have their own, selfish reasons for bombing Libya?  Of course.  No nation in the history of nations acts out of pure altruism.  France and Italy are concerned about North African refugees overwhelming their shores.  Britain and America worry about Al Qaeda stepping into a vacuum.  Everyone worries about the free flow of oil and upward pressure on its price.  Interestingly, all these risks have the potential to grow exponentially if you go down the path of using force.  So, are we really being selfish and sinister by bombing Libya, protecting only our own interests, or are we, instead, ignoring them for a greater cause?  Hmmm.  It’s infinitely more complex and larger than this question alone.

There is something bigger here.  Say whatever you want about mission creep in Libya, international spinelessness in Bahrain, or heavy-handed government brutality in Syria, the paradigm has forever changed, and unambiguously for the better.  Since the 9/11 attacks, conflict between the “West” and the “Muslim world” had been framed, indeed defined, by two primary actors- one state and one non-state.  On one side, Western governments and their partner regimes (Israel and our Muslim allies) declared their war on terror.  They faced off largely against trans-national groups- Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hizbullah, Hamas- entities who by their very nature and ideology challenged the notion of the modern nation-state itself.  Conspicuously absent on either side of the battle lines was the most important actor of all: Muslim civil society, the entity who alone has the power to reinvigorate stagnating communities and provide a viable long-term solution to violent extremism.

No longer.  The Arab Street has emerged.  Unruly, leaderless, fickle- and yet, it has forced both sides to contend with it and can no longer be discounted derisively as “not ready for democracy” or “too chaotic and unknowable to be trusted”.   Both primary actors in the conflict have had to reconfigure their strategies to account for this new and potentially pivotal player, and the upshot so far is encouraging.  Western governments have for the most part aligned their policies more with the aspirations of the Street while trans-national actors seem too dumbfounded even to react.

Indeed, the hidden story in all of this, the elephant in the room that no one has talked about seriously: where is Al Qaeda?  Why the strange silence  during the region’s most volatile hour in decades?  Numerous self-styled experts have claimed that instability and chaos were this organization’s preferred milieu, creating the space for its operatives to challenge the legitimacy of national governments.  What better opportunity than the upheavals in places like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, where secular strongmen tied to American patronage have come under immense pressure.  Is it perhaps because Al Qaeda has nothing to say to the largely young, secular groups and moderate Islamists who have tipped the scales of the system?  What would they offer them?  Brutal caliphates like those that are going swimmingly well in Saudi Arabia and Iran?  Perhaps more important, these popular awakenings have relegated a key plank in the Al Qaeda public relations machine to history’s dustbin: the string of corrupt secular regimes controled by Western puppetmasters and dismissive of their own people.  The edifice of this once potent recruiting tool is now crumbling, and Al Qaeda does not know what to do.

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I share Eugene Robinson’s well-articulated concern in his most recent Washington Post column.  The numbers are stark: America’s share of total world defense spending is 46.5%.  Second place goes to China at a meager 6.6%.  In an age of withering economic hardship at home and growing deficits and debt, why do we continue to subsidize a global stability that many other nations quietly take advantage of, cutting deals for precious natural resources- in Iraq, in Afghanistan- while American soldiers die and extremists cite occupations to recruit for their attacks on American soil?  Because, Eugene, as you well know, it’s a business.  A profitable business with a powerful constituency of congressmen, corporations, and military brass who in the end don’t care as much about lives, treasure, and America’s global standing.  Not when it comes to revenue, re-election, and the welfare of their own military families.  This is why we continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, even though we know these two countries are largely responsible for the operational and ideological underpinnings of the jihadist movement that wants to destroy America.  This is why we offer a Netanyahu government who we know has no intention of negotiating in good faith with its Palestinian counterparts the bribe of new fighter jets, even as our military leadership says our unconditional support for Israel leads directly to the loss of American lives.

Sadly, the prospect of someone else’s death cannot compete with the needs of the living.  America’s defense spending is not a subsidy to the world as much as it’s a subsidy to the American economy and political system, much like other government programs such as unemployment insurance and Medicare that Mr. Robinson has advocated for in the past.  The American enlisted soldier- largely low-income and with fewer educational and professional opportunities than higher income Americans- is the primary beneficiary, although, just like Medicare, corporations (insurance companies) and higher income individuals (doctors) also benefit.  Pick a line item in the federal budget and it is easy to find a domestic constituency behind it with their hand out.

Of course, defense spending is different than any domestic program for many of the reasons Mr. Robinson articulates.  Domestic programs usually don’t violently kill Americans and foreigners.  They also don’t have such a direct, measurable effect on our international standing.  In the foreign policy arena as with everything else, we must begin to learn how to do more with less.  One obvious option is to convince other nations to do more so we can do less.  So far, our record on this has been poor.  Time after time- in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, to name only a few- our “partners” have gotten a free ride at our expense even while they undermine our goals to boot.  There is no use hollering about their duplicity on opinion pages.  Every nation has interests that are often at odds with ours even as we find ourselves on the same side of the battle. Pakistan has legitimate concerns about a larger, hostile India that will make it forever reluctant to entirely give up the extremist proxy groups like the Taliban and Lashkar i Taiba that it uses to prevent Indian encirclement.  President Karzai has to think about the day when America will abandon its Afghan adventure, as it has done so precipitously in the past.  Anti-American, pro-nationalist, pro-Pashtun statements keep local constituencies in his favor for when that day comes.  Such are the complexities and paradoxes that make international relations a challenge.  We are better off understanding them and working through them instead of against them.

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Hussein was not a dirty word for most American Muslims who watched the first black man inaugurated president two years ago.  The president’s middle name represented a certain hope, not that our new head of state was a closet Muslim, for we all knew better, and, given many of our experiences, we were not advocates for that anyway.  Most of us had to admit that the worst leaders in the Muslim world, both past and present, were and are themselves Muslims.  No, the quiet hope was that this president would understand the complexity and nuance of our particular civilization and history better because he had spent time there, not as an ambassador or a dignitary in a bubble, but as an ordinary young man interacting with the common people.

The beginning was auspicious.   A moving speech in Cairo that lauded Muslim civilization’s past accomplishments but was firm about its deficiencies in the modern era.  A pledge to close a Guatanamo facility that filled the recruiting rolls of Al Qaeda.  Careful deliberations on Iraq and Afghanistan that solidified the long-term goal of ending inconclusive conventional operations in favor of a more nuanced strategy of counter-terror, capacity building and engagement.  The Iranian people were reminded of their great history and that a place was still available for them within the international community, despite the naked duplicity of their leadership.  Israel was forcefully prodded to stop building homes on land the whole world had considered illegally occupied now for over 40 years, an occupation that America’s own military leadership had admitted was a severe liability in the fight against extremism.  Renewed financial support was extended to regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not without conditions, not if they were to continue their corrupt, opaque ways.

Sadly, all of these good beginnings appear to be unraveling today, and Obama I is starting to look more and more like Bush I & II, as powerful, vested interests reassert themselves.  An extended hand across civilizations- in Cairo, towards Tehran- has given way to embarrassing bigotry over mosques and flaming Korans at home.  Meanwhile, Israeli home building begins in ernest once again in occupied Palestine, along with an added snub- an obligatory loyalty oath to Israel as a Jewish state for Israeli’s Arab citizens, courtesy of the racist wing of the Netanyahu government.  The underlying message to the Muslim masses- whipped up by state sponsored and extremist propaganda machines from Cairo to Qatar: we will lecture you about modernity and secularism at our leisure, but at home and with our allies, anything goes.  This hurts us.

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In Tamim Ansary’s excellent history, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes- written in plain, digestable English, not scholar-speak- a particular passage recently struck me as a lost morsel of critical perspective as we wage our “global war against extremism”.  In his book, Ansary is talking about the 7th century battle of Uhud, in which the Prophet Muhammad and his followers are defeated by a Meccan army when they momentarily break ranks in their lust for booty and are led into a trap that kills scores and wounds Muhammad himself.  The lesson learned and the cycle of thought established, early on in Muhammad’s struggle, was that:

“Divine support was not an entitlement; Muslims had to earn the favor of Allah by behaving as commanded and submitting to His will.  This explanation for defeat provided a stencil that Muslims invoked repeatedly in later years, after the Mongol holocaust of the thirteenth century, for example, when nomadic invaders from Central Asia overwhelmed most of the Islamic world, and again in response to Western domination, which began in the eighteenth century and continues to this day.”

Are Muslims still overtly stressing today about Mongol hordes and 7th century battles?  Probably not.  It was a long time ago.  But this history on some level is an integral part of the Muslim consciousness in the same way that Bible stories form an important part of the Christian psyche in America.  They shape attitudes and actions.

This is the problem with civilizations that were once great.  When they inevitably decline, their inheritors often draw the wrong conclusions as to what the problem is and how to fix it.  Since the Islamic world was once so dominant in every way- dwarfing Europe in science, medicine, tolerance, wealth, military technology- for much of its early history, it is a difficult exercise  for Muslims today to admit that the tables have turned and address the root causes dispassionately.  Inevitably, emotions and pride kick in and many fall back on the divine favor exemplified by the Uhud parable, with the West playing the role not of enabling partner but of scourge sent to punish the faithful.  This feeds a pattern of denial that doesn’t solve the problem, but only exacerbates it.

In the Western world, and in particular in the United States, there is another kind of denial playing out.  Reams of position papers, daily briefs, books, op-eds, consultations and conferences have been devoted to fine tuning and teasing out our objectives in this “global campaign”.  $2 trillion and counting has been spent invading, demolishing, rebuilding, and reforming Muslim lands.  Careers and indeed fortunes (largely Western) have been made around buzz words like nation building, local accountability, institutional transparency, conflict resolution, female empowerment.  Freedom and liberty for all.  All worthy goals.  They mean nothing if a large swath of Muslims continue to see the “West” as playing the immutable role of outsider/barbarian in the defining pattern of their world view.

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I won’t attempt to decipher the swirling debate surrounding the manufactured controversy of Park 51, the “mosque” (actually, cultural center modeled on the Jewish YMCA at 92nd Street) “at Ground Zero” (actually, several blocks away, like the other mosques already in the area.).  All heat and very little light, it’s clear the only thing this debate has energized is our own xenophobia, mob rule, and perhaps a political base or two.  The defenders of common sense have been spirited, particularly Michael Bloomberg, Jeffrey Goldberg, Fareed Zakaria, Michael Gerson and President Obama.  The political opportunists have been shameful, particularly Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer, and Rick  Lazio.

But for most of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims, the circus in America is a side show of self-important, ignorant Americans.  Many are fighting a bloody battle to redefine their faith in their own communities around the world.  Zoning rights in lower Manhattan seems trivial in comparison.  Despite all the hype and fanfare about the tectonic rift between the West and the Islamic world, the clash of rival faiths and cultures, the most virulent religious war is being fought between and among Muslims themselves.

America is involved in this fight only peripherally, and then not because we are defending ourselves from an Islamic monolith that seeks to infiltrate and conquer free societies.  On the contrary, for the past 60 years, it is America that has been the aggressor, exploiting and protecting its strategic interests in Muslim lands- namely, our addiction to Middle Eastern oil and our support of client-states like Israel and Pakistan that can project our superpower influence.  More often than not, our meddling has been to the detriment of the cause of freedom in the Muslim world as our policy makers continually opt for the stability of dictators and strong men.

How reality becomes twisted, inverted in fact, in home town America, in the name of fear and victimhood.  Does any sane person believe the Twin Towers would have come down if the Western financed oil boom, and intense American patronage, had not enabled the rise of Saudi Arabia, allowing it to export its homicidal brand of Islam across the Muslim world, spawning the Bin Ladens of the global age?   If men like Ayman Zawahiri are not tortured and radicalized in Egyptian prisons under a staunchly American-backed Mubarak regime, who builds Al Qaeda into an organization capable of striking across oceans?  If America does not pump billions of dollars into an Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the 80s, who has the capability and air of righteous invincibility to declare war on the sole remaining superpower in the 90s?   If American evangelical and Jewish groups do not fund illegal settlements built a stone’s throw from ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, is there any sympathy or support among ordinary Muslims for the mass murder of innocents on this scale?

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I don’t usually write about a status update on Facebook, but this one seemed to encapsulate so many of the complexities we deal with when trying to understand the shifting sands of identity in the Middle East.  I haven’t seen or talked to this “friend” in several years, since a few too many drinks and a late-night cigar on Jemayzee Street in Beirut, but his one-liner- “Don’t Touch My Lebanon”-written in French, not Arabic- immediately caught my eye.

As you might have guessed, my friend is Christian Lebanese and like most in that community, often feels more comfortable speaking sophisticated French than his native Arabic.  The Christian communities of Lebanon have in many ways been more attuned to European and Western culture than their fellow Muslim citizens.  Many look to Rome for spiritual guidance, prefer Paris or London as their vacation spots, and welcome a closer relationship with France and even the United States, if only to counter the growing influence of groups such as Hizbullah which have the demographics of the poorer, more traditional Shi’ite communities on their  side.  It is a good bet that my friend and many of his friends and their families fought against Hizbullah and many of the other Muslim militia groups during the Lebanese civil war in the 80s and 90s.  Some of these Lebanese Christian militias, like the Phalange, became allies of Israel when it invaded Lebanon in 1982 to oust the PLO from its bases there.

But my friend was not talking to Hizbullah when he said “Don’t Touch My Lebanon.”  He was talking to Israel.   He was responding to a minor incident several days ago that barely made any of the international news wires- an exchange of gunfire between Israeli and Lebanese troops along their border that left several dead on both sides.   His status update was followed by a more pointed comment by my friend a day later, something to the effect that Israel would think twice about invading Lebanon again ever since their losses in the 2006 war when Hizbullah fought them to a stalemate.  Lebanese politics, always treacherous and byzantine, apparently ends at the border in this instance.  When the nation is threatened, Christian and Muslim adversaries rally around the flag.

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The dust has yet to settle surrounding the twin revelations of the last several weeks: the Washington Post’s revealing expose on America’s mammoth national security apparatus with its ties to big business and the Wikileaks data dump of classified reporting from the front lines of the spiraling Afghan war.  Taken together, the two episodes cannot but make ordinary Americans wonder what their government is doing behind the scenes, if anyone is in complete control, and how many special interests and adversaries have taken advantage of what seems to be a bureaucracy run amuck.

The facts are incontrovertible: despite the exponential growth of a budget estimated at $75 billion annually since the 9/11 attacks, a comprehensive re-org under a new national security chief executive (with no real authority), and a legion of “more efficient” contractor foot soldiers with top secret clearances, amateurs like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab continue to get into our country with exploding underwear and massive leaks of classified information gush into the public domain.  Is this supposed to make us feel safe?

I’m sorry to say our leaders, from President Obama on down, have their heads in the sand on this one.  The Wikileaks information is portrayed as “nothing new”.  That’s true.  Everyone suspected that the war was going badly, that we couldn’t rely on or trust our Afghan and Pakistani partners, that our under-resourced soldiers were facing a determined enemy.  But to have this message broadcast all over the Internet, to friends and enemies alike, in the words of our own intelligence community?  There is such a thing as the war of ideas, although it does not receive as much attention in Congress or in our budgeting as a shiny new fighter or battleship.  And in the war of ideas, the Wikileaks data dump is a clear victory for our enemies.  Jihadist sympathizers from Yemen to Somalia to Iraq will point to these classified dispatches as proof that the holy war is slowly sapping the strength and resolve of the Americans, just as it was with the Soviets three decades ago.

Meanwhile, the new Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, claims there is nothing wrong with our intelligence community.  It’s not bloated or unwieldy.   Yes, there are redundancies, but those redundancies are somehow necessary.  They give us a strange sort of competitive advantage.  I’m not sure how.  When the ticking bomb is ticking, the last thing we need is a bunch of territorial and secretive bureaucracies, hoarding information, fighting with each other and failing time and time again to connect the dots.  Unfortunately, now that the big boys like  Lockheed and General Dynamics are moving more and more into the “business” of national security, a “less is more” posture is less and less possible.  Who needs to be nimble and lean when billable hours and profits are at stake.

Much has been written and debated in our media about these twin issues, with many of the hard questions posed.  One thing I haven’t seen is any speculation on how the Al Qaeda leadership, hiding in their caves or safe houses, may have reacted to the news.  They must be chuckling to themselves.  Not only because of the short-term media war gains mentioned above.  Perhaps even more important  from their perspective is how the “War on Terror” has changed American society, how our strengths and weaknesses as a civilization have been turned on their heads.  Once upon a time, our openness, diversity, and tolerance were hailed as the reason for our success.  Now, we erect border walls, we create vast government shadow worlds, we justify torture, and we “refudiate” mosques in our neighborhoods.  How much more similar have we become to the societies that gave birth to people like Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, insecure nations prone to smothering their peoples, discouraging transparency, rejecting diversity.  This, unfortunately, is Al Qaeda’s greatest victory.  They have changed us, and while that may have not been one of their overt strategic objectives, it honestly does not matter.

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Hats off to Bob Gates for being a true patriot.  For realizing that the real threat to our national security isn’t a group of angry beards in a Pakistani cave or a gaggle of rogue nations whose combined defense spending doesn’t approach one-tenth of ours, but rather the waste and cozy corruption within our own country.  Most cabinet secretaries jealously guard their resources and territory, resisting any attempts to trim budgets and curtail authority, to reign in the largesse they hand out to private contractors and corporate interests.  Instead, Gates has made it his personal crusade to cut the fat at the Defense Department and give resources back to Congress.  And Congress has refused him.

Congress has refused him?   Trillion dollar deficits, a national debt approaching levels not seen since World War II, an aging population unable to sustain its dependents, and Congress is refusing savings?  Well, if it’s related to defense dollars, and the jobs and political contributions tied to them, then, yes.  A case in point is the “back-up” engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter- a cool half a billion dollar price tag just in case the primary engine for the plane doesn’t measure up.  Doesn’t measure up?  When the government asks you to build something and it doesn’t measure up, then you either fix it or pay the money back, with interest.  But General Electric and Rolls Royce, the corporations who would like to build the back-up engine, don’t see it that way.  They (and their well paid lobbyists in Washington) think the government should hedge its bets and create some “competition” by giving them a piece of the action.  Gates rightly points out that if they wanted a piece of the action, they should have been more competitive in the original tender for the fighter, which was won by Lockheed Martin and its engine partner, Pratt & Whitney.

But this is not how our defense industry or Congress works.  Peel back the veil of “competitive bids” and “strict contracting standards.”  Dig deep.  If you’re Congress, you need to spread the greenbacks around a bit, to the hundreds of counties, communities and states that manufacture disparate parts for weapon systems that we will largely never use.  (As myself and others have said before, don’t count on getting into any dog fights with Al Qaeda any time soon, not when they can penetrate our defenses with an impoverished teenager wearing loaded underwear).  This is the game board that Gates would like to shake up- the defense industry’s shrewd battle map of key political and economic constituencies across the nation and the federal contracts that keep the money, jobs and profits flowing to them and their representatives.  It’s not about national security at all.  On the contrary, it’s about the political insecurity of our elected men and women and their penchant to put their careers ahead of what’s right for the country.  It’s not surprising that it takes an un-elected official to challenge them.

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A pair of instances recently reminded me how both sides- the “West” (more specifically, the United States) and the Muslim World- have engaged in so little self-reflection since the events of 9/11.  It is much easier to project outward than to take a hard look at your own society.  Problems are no longer yours when you can successfully argue that they come from some outside force.  For politicians and pundits, the temptation is too great.

This kind of gamesmanship has approached the truly absurd in the Muslim world.  On Friday a Sufi shrine in Lahore, Pakistan was ripped apart by a triple suicide bombing.  As I have written before, Sufism is the lighter side of Islam- a moderate force whose greater tolerance for things like other faiths and female emancipation has angered Muslim extremists.  It’s long standing traditions and practices across the Muslim world are the most direct, organic challenge to those who would spread the lie- that early Islam’s core strength was its angry, unforgiving unity and purity.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  Islam’s original spread in the 7th and 8th centuries was indeed aided by the sword, but more important in its ascendancy was its acceptance of other cultures, faiths and its rational discourse on everything from trade to science.  The Christian world, caught in an orgy of religious violence, greed and superstition, could not compete.

How far has Muslim civilization fallen?  How completely have the two sides exchanged places, like a pair of reflections in the same mirror?  After the Lahore attack, demonstrations blaming the United States for the carnage raged across Pakistan.  Normally sane people reasoned that extremists wouldn’t have attacked the shrine if the Pakistani government wasn’t in bed with America.  In the rush to anger, the sick individuals who actually planned and executed the operation seemed to have been all but forgotten.

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