The Words of the De Borchgrave Family
September 11 Was an Historic Watershed
Arnaud De Borchgrave
Veteran journalist, Arnaud De Borchgrave, gave this Plenary Address at IIFWP's Assembly 2001,
I believe that fifty-five years of covering wars, revolutions, assassinations, and other major world crises have given me a license to be blunt and undiplomatic. Those of you who have worked with or for Reverend Sun Myung Moon, as I have since 1982 when I first joined the Editorial Advisory Board of the Washington Times, and have heard me address a wide variety of the conferences Reverend Moon has organized since then, will not be surprised by my tell-it-like-it-is approach.
My father said I would have made a lousy diplomat because I've never had an unspoken thought in my life! I've learned from long, bitter experience that political forecasting, especially since the end of the Cold War, and more particularly since September 11, has made astrology look respectable. That experience has also led me to conclude that a pessimist is an optimist with experience.
Having spent the past three weeks in Pakistan, and being the only non-Muslim journalist to ever interview Mullah Muhammad Omar, which I did in Kandahar last June, I thought it would be more interesting to focus on the current crisis-and what led to it.
Almost any English-language newspaper anywhere in the developing world carries more foreign news than America's top two or three dailies combined. Since the end of the Cold War, the melodrama of constant trivia, from Tonya Harding to Monica Lewinsky and from O. J. Simpson to Gary Condit, blinded us to the new forces shaping the developing world and more specifically the Muslim world.
In a comparable news period, Miss Harding garnered more ink and airtime than the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that collapsed the Soviet empire and its godless communist ideology.
Following the twin victories in the Cold War and Gulf War, editors and TV producers, in their infinite wisdom, decided that Americans don't care about foreign news and focused instead on less-expensive-to-cover domestic melodramas.
For the major conglomerates and megacompanies that own the media giants, the bottom line reigned supreme. The public good was a quaint concept relegated to academic debates, as was the journalistic duty of taking what's important and making it interesting. Monica's dress became more important than the growing popularity of Osama bin Laden in the slums of Muslim capitals.
Prior to September 11, ABC World News Tonight frequently reduced the rest of the world to a single foreign news item, more often than not of marginal importance. As The New York Times' Maureen Dowd put it, "It's somewhat embarrassing that we didn't look outward sooner, that foreign wars got less TV air time than the war against wrinkles."
The fact that bin Laden was running a global terror network in some sixty countries was unknown by 99 percent of Americans; or that Pakistan's Islamic schools, madrassas, were producing an endless supply of recruits for terrorist training in Afghanistan; or that Pakistan's extremist religious leaders have been busy promoting bin Laden's hatred of America; or that fanatics are winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim masses in Pakistan while they chloroformed the silent majority into submission. I have even heard so-called moderate political voices say, albeit privately, that "America had it coming."
And Dan Rather of CBS wondered out loud on Larry King Live, "How did we get sucker punched?" The dumbing-down of the media was the slippery slope that led to the dumbing down of America.
For ten years following the end of the Cold War, three administrations (including two Clinton terms) saw only the global triumph of democratic capitalism. Unbeknownst to the media, globalization became shorthand for American economic and cultural imperialism for countless millions, not only in the developing world but also in developed European countries. From Seattle two years ago to Genoa last July, anti-capitalist demonstrations were duly noted, but the dots were never connected to the forces that now lionize Osama bin Laden.
For most of the developing world it was still a matter of how to put food on the family table, not twice or three times but once a day. Muslim clerics from Indonesia to Pakistan, the world's two most populous Islamic states, and from Egypt to Morocco, tell their impoverished flocks that America lives in the lap of luxury from the sweat of their brows. And to add insult to injury, they say America is supplying billions in military hardware to Israel to keep the Palestinians enslaved.
All the ingredients for the "clash of civilizations" posited by Professor Samuel Huntington in his famous book have slowly hardened without the ever-alert mass media machine taking notice.
September 11 snapped Rip Van Winkle policy wonks out of a long post-Cold War slumber. They suddenly advocated a "belt of democracy" to wean the masses away from a clergy that doubles in brass as extremist propagandists. Unfortunately, masses that can't read or write-Pakistan is 70 percent illiterate-have been led to believe that democracy is the smokescreen behind which the evil American empire advances its pawns. Obscurantist theocracy is the mullahs' vessel of choice to keep Pakistani and Afghani masses at sea in the real world.
General Hameed Gul, the retired Pakistani intelligence chief who plays Svengali as "strategic adviser" to the country's extremist religious formations, points to the feudal regimes of the Gulf to prove to his clerical followers that even America is not really serious about democracy as a global model. Gul is also a friend and admirer of bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Omar, the "supreme leader of the faithful," who is also bin Laden's son-in-law.
Gul and fundamentalist leaders believe to this day that Mossad and Israel did the evil deeds on September 11. One of my dinner companions last night, an Iranian-American imam of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn, Michigan, told me he also believed it was Mossad, not bin Laden's l-Qaida terrorist organization. He cited as evidence the "fact" that four thousand Jews stayed away from work in the Twin Towers on September 11. I explained that if this were indeed "a fact" it would have been in the media almost immediately. "No," my Iranian friend responded, "because the media would suppress something like that." I did not know whether to laugh or cry.
The ruling families of the Gulf are the third most hated by the fundamentalists after the United States and Israel. For democracy to be meaningful to the masses, the divine right of rulers in the Gulf would have to morph into constitutional monarchies as unifying symbols over non-royal governments representing the people as a whole.
The ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, buys time by subsidizing the Doha-based Al Jazeera satellite TV channel that acts as a mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates keep their clerics at bay by ladling out largesse to Pakistan's madrassas, the religious schools that kept replenishing the ranks of bin Laden's followers.
Transnational terrorism is a hydra-headed snake that feeds on perceived injustices and inequities suffered by the developing world at the hands of an uncaring capitalist world. The United States and its allies now have a historic opportunity to give the demagogues of the Muslim world the lie by dusting off a speech George C. Marshall gave at Harvard in 1947. Bin Laden believes he found the answer to a superpower's overwhelming military power by waging asymmetrical warfare. But his terrorist swamp would quickly drain when faced with a Western "New Deal," such as debt forgiveness for the poor nations of what we once called the Third World.
Ever-bigger defense budgets are not the answer. The September 11 tragedy has given the United States and its Western allies an unexpected opening to turn adversity into a geopolitical victory. New approaches to development in the developing world must be on a scale that I witnessed, and covered as a journalist, that put Europe back on its feet and on the road to prosperity after World War II.
As long as we have two billion people, one-third of humanity, struggling to subsist on two dollars a day or less, we will have spawning grounds for transnational terrorism carried out by people who have nothing to lose.
IIFWP understands that September 11 was a historic watershed that can, that must, lead to a better future for mankind.
Mr. De Borchgrave is Editor-at-Large at The Washington Times and UPI.
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