It has often occurred to me that in the post-9/11 world Islam has come to
play the role that Marxism once played in the Cold War era.
Like Marxism, the jihadists are a real threat, one that is ruthless in its
And like Marxism, it is also a handy boogie man for those intent on
manipulating opinion to serve their own ends, to pursue war and profit and
It is also, like Marxism, a phenomenon that is badly misunderstood by
those sincerely concerned about its dangers.
In the Cold War, Marxism was seen as a unified worldwide conspiracy, an
internationally orchestrated plot to impose global tyranny, all in the name of a
godless future Utopia.
Yet in fact, it was an ideology always riven by internal strife, and the
fall of Vietnam- where the U.S. took its stand- heralded not the effect that was
predicted, but rather immediate warfare with other erstwhile Marxist regimes.
And the whole thing eventually collapsed into itself, though I am not one of
those who considers an eventual resurrection improbable.
In the midst of the fear-mongering anyone who pointed out the role that
social injustice, capitalist excess, and American foreign policy played in the
rise of revolutionary ideology was considered suspect, a fellow traveller if
not a commie.
Anti-communists tended to paint with a broad brush, rarely distinguishing
between varieties of socialism, rarely noting the more benign and democratic
schools of thought on the Left. The spectrum, in their eyes, ran from red to hot
And so Islam.
It is seen by many as a parallel to Communism, in this instance pursuing a
theocratic, rather than an atheistic Utopia.
Of course Mr. Bush and company are careful in public to distance themselves
from any wholesale denunciation of Islam, careful to ascribe the crimes of the
jihadists to a small minority of Muslims.
However, it is clear that the neoconservatives surrounding Bush have been
widely influenced by the "clash of civilization" school of thought- the ideas of
Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis- and talk show pundits and bloggers on the
Right do not restrain themselves, recklessly attacking Islam and Muslims as
inherently violent and threatening.
Yet in truth Islam is no more a united front than Marxism was. Even the
minority radical jihadists are deeply divided, as the sectarian violence in Iraq
has vividly illustrated. In fact, while all Marxists professed belief in
revolutionary violence, only a minority of Muslims worldwide express support for
terrorism, though majorities are unsuprisingly suspicious of, even hostile to,
the West and to Israel.
Further, I would note that the dominant ideologies behind Islamic violence-
Shi’ia clerical theocracy, Salafist and Wahabbi puritanical rule- would like
Marxism, eventually collapse fo their own weight. Inhuman suppression of every
expression of beauty and creativity, all music and dance and celebration- I’m
told the Taliban banned flowers- is destined to provoke rebellion. Just
as Calvinists evolved into Universalists, puritanical Islam would likely evolve
into some form of Islamic humanism.
Think of it like this: If Sarah Ruth, Parker’s iconoclast wife in Flannery
O’Connor’s story Parker’s Back, had come to power and instituted a
theocratic state, the hillbillies would rise up against her eventually.
Like in the Cold War, anyone who examines the role that colonialism and
-more recently- American foreign policy have played in the rise of Islamic
militancy is viewed as less than patriotic.
Yet that role does bear examination.
Besides the obvious- oil policy, blind support for Israel, and the rest-
there is the history of American and British intelligence support for the new
wave of jihadism as a counterforce to Communism and Middle Eastern nationalism,
beginning with the Muslim Brotherhood in the 40s and 50s and continuing through
Afghan resistance to the U.S.S.R. in the 80s.
The Wahabbist version of jihadism was spread throughout the world by our
allies- and Bush family business partners- the Saudis.
George Bush the elder was at one time head of the CIA.
Whether these dots connect to portray a very bad miscalculation or a very
astute, if evil, calculation, I don’t know.
But the dots are there.
There is evidence of British operatives disguising themselves a
bomb-wielding Muslims in Iraq. There are accusations of all sorts of dirty
tricks and subterfuge around the world, of disinformation on a vast scale.
I don’t know about that, but I’d sure like to run into Andy again.
Andy was a guy I knew in the DC area in the 80s.
I met him at the Communion and Liberation meetings I attended at Catholic
University. Like the boring evenings of recollection I sat through at the posh
townhouse home of the Legionairres of Christ- those second rate Jesuit wannabes-
I was there for one reason: to meet Catholic women. (Without luck, I might
But in the post-meeting pizza parties I found Andy to be an interesting
character: a hearty, bearded, earthy guy, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, he
was naturally very anticommunist.
He worked, apparently, for the CIA and would disappear for months at a
time, resurfacing with tales of the wonderful holy warriors he had trained in
I always have wondered what he thought of his protegees after 9/11, when
Osama bin Laden, who was at least indirectly trained and armed by the CIA,
emerged as the mastermind behind that assault.
I wonder if Andy now talks of Muslims like he once talked of
Or if he has second thoughts on the whole manichean paradigm, the whole
boogie man syndrome?
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