[Lott] The Elephant in the Room | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Lott] The Elephant in the Room

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I'm among a growing number of Americans believing we must frankly acknowledge we're in a war with Muslim extremism. To deny that Muslim extremism is a worldwide problem, denies the so-called "elephant in the room." It invites division and defeat for the civilized world.

This is an unconventional war that actually began in 1979 when Iranian militants took more than 400 American hostages. It continued through the 1980s when Hezbollah killed more than 200 U.S. Marines in Lebanon and through the 1990s with more bombings including that of the USS Cole.

Republican and Democratic administrations have tried to contain Muslim extremism, short of all out war. But it finally came to military blows following the 9/11 attacks, and it's now going global. Today with terrorist attacks in Spain, India, Russia, England and the Far East, Muslim extremism is a global cancer that, without check, will grow.

I'm a member of the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, and I recently met informally with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to hear his always insightful view of the Middle East. But it doesn't take an intelligence officer to understand the threat.

Muslim extremists hate the entire modern, civilized world. They oppose democracy, because individual choice is alien to their philosophy. They oppose Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, every doctrine except theirs. They want to kill everyone who doesn't believe as they do. And, if they can get a nuclear or chemical weapon, they'll certainly use it for mass murder. Until then, they'll side with any bad actor – Iran, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea – to get these weapons or secure leverage against the civilized, democratic nations obstructing them.

It's not just about Israel. As one popular journalist has quite correctly pointed out, you could take the terrorists' weapons away and there would be peace in Lebanon. On the other hand, disarming Israel would prelude another Holocaust. Emboldened terrorists would proceed to destroy Israel and then set their sights on more targets – possibly again in our country.

Some time ago Israel withdrew from territories around its border in a much ballyhooed "land for peace" deal which the deal's supporters said would usher in tranquility. Instead, terrorists used this period to stockpile the missiles now falling on Israel.

But even that's not enough to convince some. Ignoring attacks in their own backyard, the Europeans, save the British, still haven't completely acknowledged the threat Islamic extremism poses to them. Europe is trying to redefine itself. Europeans are going through an identity crisis, having trouble thinking of themselves as a group of nation states or as some new confederation, loosely joined by the European Union.

Unlike most Americans, this generation of Europeans also fancy themselves as secularists, above religious teaching and traditional demarcations between right and wrong. Many Europeans think this neutralizes them from extremists, making them less desirable terrorist targets. But it only makes them easier prey, ripe for a "takeover" as Muslim extremists have said they'd do. Meanwhile, Europe's militaries, again except for the British, have been degraded, having little means or will to project force.

Americans should take a close look at some nations' anemic response to terrorism, because this moral muddle is exactly what some Americans seek for our country. They would have us deny extremism's danger, degrade our military and cower in the terrorists' faces while imploring us to "understand" terrorism and redeploy our forces so the jihadists won't feel "threatened." That's a recipe for defeat.

The war in Lebanon will end only when Hezbollah is disarmed or destroyed. Victory in the overall War on Terror lies in steady, bipartisan American leadership and in moderate Arab states like Jordan, whose young leader, King Abdullah, recently visited Mississippi at my request. It also requires strong First World statesmanship like that demonstrated by Britain's Tony Blair, Germany's Angela Merkel and Japan's Junichiro Koizumi, who buck internal politics and apathy to condemn extremism.

Muslim extremists hope the civilized world will view terror through a partisan or strictly secular prism, dividing and conquering ourselves. To defeat them we must put aside politics and acknowledge terrorism for what it is — a worldwide problem, the elephant in the room trying to crush us all. (8/3/06)
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: press office)

Previous Comments

ID
141241
Comment

Muslim extremists hate the entire modern, civilized world. They oppose democracy, because individual choice is alien to their philosophy. They oppose Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, every doctrine except theirs. This is the trustiest part of the "elephant in the room." Those who think otherwise best think twice. With the Taliban in charge little was done to stop them from blowing up 2000 year old Buddhist statues. So you think the moderate government of Egypt would have allowed that to happen? Not having a "dog in that fight" won't spare you from extremists should they have the opportunity to strike at you.

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-08-07T18:16:22-06:00
ID
141242
Comment

I don't disagree with what Lott is actually saying here, but his use of the phrase "Muslim extremists" strikes me as one of those that's carefully tailored to be just general enough to pander to xenophobes and just specific enough to not constitute an actual slur. Obviously violent Muslim fundamentalists are a threat. Obviously nonviolent Muslim fundamentalists have the same right to their beliefs that nonviolent Christian fundamentalists have. The word "extremists" skirts the two categories in a way that I find irritating. The issue is not that the people in question are too Muslim; it's that they're too violent, and in that respect not really Muslim enough. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-08-08T05:16:41-06:00
ID
141243
Comment

The problem is while Christian Fundies are annoying but non-violent, and quickly disavowed if they do get violent, Muslim Fundie aren't dismissed as kooks and mocked as quickly. That aside, it is a threat that deserves a reasoned response, not a piecemeal approach like we have now. This is our new, and maybe last battlefield. We cannot make the mistakes we did in the past.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-08-08T09:24:05-06:00
ID
141244
Comment

I was hoping someone besides the atheist heathen would bring up Christian fundamentalists. Currently, they're in a legsilative position... But, given the hostile climate of politics, I can see them shift quickly -- especially the kids being "trained" in Jesus camps! There are many Chrisitan fundamentalists that are no different than fascist, extemist Muslims. These people desire a theocracy and view war as a necessary option. Extremism is extremism, Mr. Lott. If you're going to point fingers, you should also address your large voting bloc that's interested in circumventing our legislative and judicial process with their Chrisitian and theocratic views. But, I wouldn't expect you to insult those in your circle, Mr. Lott. Grrrr. My love for Mississippi and her beauty is waning.

Author
kaust
Date
2006-08-08T09:47:24-06:00
ID
141245
Comment

I knew someone would come along. :D If you want scary, civil-rights robbing nazi-style camps for kids, I can point you to Tranquility Bay in Jamaca. That's completely secular, and possibly more violent than that Jesus Camp. Both should be outlawed for Americans of any age. Both brainwash kids into believing the party line. Jesus Camp misses the whole point of salvation, freedom of choice. You can't force someone to believe, and these morons don't see that. Kids who survive Traquility are the same, brainless programmed zombies you'd see from a Jesus camp or any severe PTSD sufferer. What will limit any so-called "Christian Uprising", besides the whole anti-biblical fallacy of the idea, is the fact that there is a loud section of the nation and world who can't see a difference between nominally non-violent Christian Fundies and missle lobbing Muslim Fundies. Christian Fundies who think like this are so far off the idea, it's not funny. I honestly have problems calling them Christian, if they can't follow the simple word of God.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-08-08T10:31:07-06:00
ID
141246
Comment

I have big problems with labeling "extremism" as wrong. What is any belief if not extreme? Can one "kind of" devote their lives to what they believe? Even if one is an athiest, does that imply indifference to one's own convictions? If not, doesn't that imply extremeism? Thre is a subtext in all discussion of "exremeism" and "radiaclism" which basically says that religion is fine as long as it is kept under wraps. That is, religion is fine as long as it serves the LARGER purpose of keeping the political and social order intact. But what kind of religion is that? Religion is by definition radical. Indeed, firm convictions of any kind are by definition radical, in that such convictions are kept regardless of the consequences. The question is not whether or not we can get people to be more "moderate" in their religion: moderate religion is really no religion at all, it is just societal religious identification. No, the question is this: Can specific religions (such as Islam, or Christianity for example), practiced in the full, radical sense, coexist with the modern world? That's what we have to find out.

Author
GLB
Date
2006-08-08T11:11:23-06:00
ID
141247
Comment

The problem is while Christian Fundies are annoying but non-violent, and quickly disavowed if they do get violent, Muslim Fundie aren't dismissed as kooks and mocked as quickly. Don't forget the terrorist wing of the Christian fundies, Iron. The Klan, Timothy McVeigh, many militia types, Eric Rudolph and any "pro-life" person who believes in violence against doctors, that crazy Web site that listed doctors' addresses and struck through the ones that were killed already. And I sure don't think we should be quite so quick to forget the Oklahoma City bombing in the wake of the World Trade Center. Both were severe tragedies. And one of them was done by our own home-grown extremists, raised on the fear of the government and hatred of people who believe differently.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-08-08T11:19:06-06:00
ID
141248
Comment

I would also put into the violent category any Christian fundamentalist who believes it's OK to beat the hell out of prisoners and children in training camps, or young men in handcuffs, or to torture Islamic prisoners. That is also terrorism, of a fashion. I'm not comparing what is worse—or trying to make the crimes of Islamic terrorists lesser somehow. That can't be done. But it doesn't help solve anything, or reduce future violence, to try to somehow pretend that America could never raise such horrendous monsters as they're breeding in the Islamic world. Tell that to the parents of those babies in the Oklahoma City daycare center.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-08-08T11:22:30-06:00
ID
141249
Comment

GLB, the difference between extremists and regular, ol' religious-types is: extremists are willing to wage wars and kill those they disagree with... Or, at the very least legislate their rights into non-existence (think Nazis and Islamo-fascists). Both were/are extremists using a religion as their purpose, core, and reason for murder and fascism.

Author
kaust
Date
2006-08-08T11:29:35-06:00
ID
141250
Comment

BTW, GLB, I don't think religion is radical. To the contrary, it is common-place and herd-oriented. Radical is hardly what I'd call modern religions that aren't extremist (read: religions that don't practice brainwashing, propaganda, war, murder, etc). Religion is the norm throughout the globe. Not to be snarky but I'd suggest reviewing the definition of radical.

Author
kaust
Date
2006-08-08T11:33:07-06:00
ID
141251
Comment

Knol, I guess what we are talking about in general here is just the definitions of words. But I think how we difine these terms is very important, because it has a great influence on the perception of the debate. I agree that religion is and has functioned as the "opiate of the masses" within society. In fact, that is partly what is meant by "moderate" religion. But take any religion, and look at it's founding texts or premises. Do any of the claims of these religious text strike you as moderate? Don't they all expect total allegiance, and isn't conversion always a fundamental change? Or for that matter, look at a philosophy like Objectivism. Is that not fundamentally radical? So those who choose to be religious are always in some sense radical, becase religious conversion is a fundamentally radical change of priorities. Those who only inherit religion as a cultural or familial custom, and who never choose one way or the other, are more akin to what is called moderate. Also you define "extreme" as "given to violent action". I think that is a misrepresentation of the original meaning of that word. It has COME to mean that, but I think that is a back-door attempt to associate all radical religious commitment with violence. That definition is only true if the foundational principles of the religion that one is an extreme devotee of are INHERENTLY violent. Which brings us back to the original question: can these religions coexist in modern society?

Author
GLB
Date
2006-08-08T12:37:29-06:00
ID
141252
Comment

They could if humans would quit reinterpreting the scriptures for whatever purposes they desire.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-08-08T13:47:17-06:00
ID
141253
Comment

Lott writes......"It invites division and defeat for the civilized world". Well folks,,,it's getting close to election time. Time to put on the Republican Fear Factor sequel.....

Author
ATLExile
Date
2006-08-08T14:44:46-06:00
ID
141254
Comment

Muslim extremists hate the entire modern, civilized world. Comments like this remind me of one of my favorite quotations. Someone once asked Gandhi what he thought of Western civilization. After a moment's reflection, he answered, "I think it would be a very good idea." Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2006-08-08T15:57:04-06:00
ID
141255
Comment

"little was done to stop them from blowing up 2000 year old Buddhist statues". actually the extremists have proposed leveling Karnak and Giza.....

Author
ATLExile
Date
2006-10-12T15:06:02-06:00

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