TCS Daily


Bomb My House... Please

By Michael Totten - November 11, 2004 12:00 AM

Theocracy looks good on paper - at least to some people.

In 1979 Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini was swept to power on a wave of revolutionary fury that toppled the autocratic Shah Reza Pahlevi. Khomeini was clever. He fused right-wing religious extremists and left-wing Marxists into a single popular movement. Then, upon taking power, he liquidated the leftists.

Iran is boiling with revolution again, but this time it's neither religious nor leftist. It is secular, it is democratic, and it is liberal. Clerical totalitarianism isn't much fun when you're on the receiving end of the whip and the lash. But the mullahs in the Guardian Council, after killing their way into power, won't give it up without being forced out the door at the point of a gun.

It's a grim situation, but it's also encouraging. It proves Islamofascism a failure. It can only be popular in opposition and in theory. When in power it hangs its opponents. But it also hangs itself.

Be careful what you wish for, as they say. Iranians, to their great misfortune, had to learn this lesson the hard way. And they learned it too late. Iraqis are learning it too -- at least some of them are. And it isn't too late for them.

Islamic radicals from all over the Middle East seized power in certain Iraqi cities -- most infamously Fallujah. Some of the locals welcomed the jihadists at first, but now they know what the Iranians know. And they aren't happy.

A recent article in the Washington Post explains what has happened.

"Adnan, the taxi driver who moved his panicked wife and four children to another town, said attitudes toward the foreign fighters have changed dramatically since they poured into Fallujah after the Marines' siege ended in April. 'We were deceived by them,' he said. 'We welcomed them first because we thought they came to support us, but now everything is clear.'

"Among the tensions dividing the locals and the foreigners is religion. People in Fallujah, known as the city of mosques, have chafed at the stern brand of Islam that the newcomers brought with them. The non-Iraqi Arabs berated women who did not cover themselves head-to-toe in black -- very rare in Iraq -- and violently opposed local customs rooted in the town's more mystical religious tradition.

[...]

"Residents said the overwhelming majority of Fallujah's people also have been repulsed by the atrocities that Zarqawi and other extremists have made commonplace in Iraq.

The people of Fallujah have put up with abuse at the hands of jihadists that we in the West can barely imagine. Ridiculous as it sounds, some of them really do want us to bomb their own city -- even their home - in order to save it. Here is an excerpt from an email by a soldier stationed outside Fallujah to his father.

"Once again, we are being asked by citizens who have fled the city to go in and take the city back. They are willing for us to literally rubble the place in order to kill the terrorists within. Don't get me wrong, there are still many inside the town that support the terrorists and we cannot expect to be thanked publicly if we do take the city. There is a sense of de ja vu with the refugees telling us where their houses are and asking us to bomb them because the muj have taken them over. "

One worry I've had ever since September 11, 2001, is that there's a chance most (if not all) Middle Eastern countries will have to go through their own wrenching theocracy phase before the Terror War burns itself out. Muslims themselves must reject Islamic rule. That could take decades at least. Iran went theocratic a quarter of a century ago. It still hasn't moved on despite the fact that most Iranians want to.

Iraq is the bellwether state. It's the only Muslim country in the Middle East with a chance to choose its own destiny. Baathism will never come back. The hated ancien regime couldn't be any more discredited than it already is. But Iraqis may decide that after decades of secular totalitarianism they want to swing the other way into the arms of religious totalitarians. Moqtada al Sadr's Shi'ite insurgency was a bad omen. Here we go, I thought. Iraqis who don't know any better think Iran is the way to go.

But Iraq's theocrats are already blowing their chances by giving the people a preview. The places where religious thugs have taken power are turning against them -- hard. Iraqis -- at least some of them -- are learning the same brutal lesson Iranians started to learn in 1979. The difference is that it's not hopeless for them. Iraqis, unlike Iranians, can easily push the clerical tyrants aside. We're there to help.

History in Iraq is accelerating. Both secular totalitarianism and religious fascism are being rapidly discredited, the second right after the first. And the coalition forces are throwing Iraqis a rope. We can get them past the theocracy phase much faster than if they implemented a post-Saddam religious tyranny by themselves and then had to live with the results for three decades.

Once secular and religious tyranny are rejected by the majority, what's left? Some kind of moderate consensual government, and that's about it. We are setting ourselves up to win "hearts and minds" by default. The same could have happened without an invasion, but it would been decades rather than years before it took place.

Michael J. Totten is a TCS columnist. Visit his daily Web log at http://michaeltotten.com.


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