“All warfare is based upon deception,” instructed Sun Tzu, the great Chinese military strategist of the 6th century B.C. But when it comes to the global jihad of the 21st century, the extent to which we in the West insist upon deceiving ourselves would shock even Sunny. Some quick examples follow:
Yonathan Melaku was charged in federal court with shooting at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The officials who arrested him later searched his home and found a videotape in which he is shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They also found a notebook in which he’d written about Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, the Taliban and “The Path to Jihad,” a book of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Islamic cleric who was widely considered a moderate before he fled to Yemen where he is now a top al Qaida commander.
So it’s pretty obvious what Melaku was up to, right? Not if you’re a federal employee, it isn’t. “I can’t suggest to you his motivations or intent,” James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, told reporters at a news conference. “It’s not readily apparent yet.”
The term “conscientious objector” used to refer to those who sought exemption from military duty because their religious beliefs prohibited serving as combatants. But in May, the secretary of the Army granted conscientious objector status to a soldier — a volunteer — who refused to deploy to Afghanistan. PFC Nasser Abdo claimed that Islamic sharia law prohibits him not from killing anyone, but only from killing fellow Muslims — including, apparently, “violent extremists” who join the Taliban and al-Qaida.
“I don’t believe I can involve myself in an army that wages war against Muslims,” Abdo told al-Jazeera. “I don’t believe I could sleep at night if I take part, in any way, in the killing of Muslims.”
Not long ago, the regime that rules Iran, designated by the U.S. State Department as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, held what it called the first international conference on the global fight against terrorism. The U.S. and Israel, the “satanic world powers,” were singled out for their “black record of terrorist behaviors.” This should have been the subject of scorn and ridicule from the “international community.”
But senior officials from at least 60 countries attended and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a message expressing his appreciation to Tehran.
A few years ago, former federal terrorism prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy wrote “Willful Blindness,” a book about political leaders, academics, journalists and others refusing to see the jihad threat staring America in the face.
But we’ve now gone way beyond that. The examples above — and I could cite many more — have to be seen as determined self-deception, if not symptoms of madness. I’m pretty sure Sun Tzu would agree.
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.