A View From Israel: Learning the lessons

Eleven years after the 9/11 tragedy, the West still doesn’t understand the dangers of radical Islam.

New York skyline at night 521 (photo credit: Reuters)
New York skyline at night 521
(photo credit: Reuters)
In July 2001, former CIA director George J. Tenet called former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice for an emergency meeting. He had concrete information that al-Qaida would strike US interests, possibly within the US, and he wanted her to take the information to the president to see what could be done to prevent such an attack.
Apparently, the urgency of the message was not relayed, nothing was done about it and not long after, the US was four airplanes and two towers too late.
The resulting 9/11 Commission Report stated that “the 9/11 attacks were a shock, but they should not have come as a surprise. Islamic extremists had given plenty of warnings that they meant to kill Americans indiscriminately and in large numbers.”
In 2004, the White House’s former counter-terrorism coordinator blasted George W. Bush, saying the president had ignored warnings about terrorist attacks before 9/11.
“He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We’ll never know,” Richard Clarke told CBS’s 60 Minutes in an interview.
On Monday, The New York Times ran an op-ed by Kurt Eichenwald, titled “The Deafness Before the Storm,” in which he wrote, “the dots were not connected, and Washington did not react.
“Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can’t ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.”
And yet, today, when Israel hears the Iranian warnings, sees the Iranian effort to build a weapon that can destroy it, and is reacting with urgency, the West lambastes Israel for attempting to do now what the US admits it should have done before 9/11.
Tension between Jerusalem and Washington over Iran erupted on Tuesday when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the world tells Israel to wait and that there is still time. “And I say wait for what? Wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”
Netanyahu’s comments came in the wake of statements by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday, and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday, that the US had no intention of putting either red lines or deadlines in front of the Iranians.
Now, after years of fruitless efforts to get Iran to cooperate, the naive insistence that diplomacy, without setting red lines, is the right way to approach the issue, is astounding.
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it appears the US still has not learned the lessons of how to deal with terrorism. The Obama administration, as well as other Western countries, should take heed of Shakespeare’s words in Henry VI, Part 1: “Delays have dangerous ends.”
AFTER 9/11, everyone rushed to blame the Bush administration, the FBI, the CIA, the FAA and numerous other government and federal agencies, but no one seems to have stepped back and learned the core lesson here. And that is: stop being afraid of Islam.
Ever since Osama bin Laden declared war on America, marking, according to preeminent Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis, the resumption of the struggle for religious dominance of the world that began in the seventh century, the West has completely misunderstood the true intentions of radical Islam.
In The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, Lewis writes, “For most of the fourteen centuries of recorded Muslim history, jihad was most commonly interpreted to mean armed struggle for the defense or advancement of Muslim power. In Muslim tradition, the world is divided into two houses: the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam) in which Muslim governments rule and Muslim law prevails, and the House of War (Dar al-Harb), the rest of the world, still inhabited and, more important, ruled by infidels. The presumption is that the duty of jihad will continue... until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule.”
The Western world is afraid of Islam, cowed by Islamist aggression.
From Muslim riots in France to threats on Danish cartoonists and the fact that radical Muslims are gaining influence in the Netherlands, Britain and Germany, among numerous other European countries, the world has gone mad trying to protect Muslim “sensitivity” to apostasy, thus submitting to Muslim demands.
On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that Britain’s Channel 4 cited concerns over security as the reason for canceling a planned screening at its headquarters this week of a documentary film questioning the origins of Islam.
A documentary titled Islam: The Untold Story, which claimed there was little written contemporary evidence about the origin of the religion, sparked more than 1,000 complaints to Channel 4 after it was broadcast two weeks ago.
Also on Tuesday, protesters breached the wall of the American Embassy in Cairo and tore down a flag over a US film which they say insults Muhammad. Following the violence in Egypt, protesters shot dead an American official at the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
While the US condemned the violence in Libya, it responded differently to the violence in Egypt. Instead of condemning the protesters’ backward-thinking, ignorant ideology, the US Embassy instead issued a statement defending the attack on its own property, condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”
The statement added: “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
The US appears to have learned nothing from 9/11.
President Barack Obama believed, when he took office in 2009, that he could reach out to the Muslim and Arab world and bring them around. He bowed to the Saudis and offered his hand to Iran.
How naive.
Obama fails to understand what Lewis emphasizes: “If the fundamentalists are correct in their calculations and succeed in their war, then a dark future awaits the world, especially the part of it that embraces Islam.”
Today, Iran is set on its path to dominate the world through Islam and it clearly intends to do so through apocalyptic means. The West’s blindness that existed before 9/11 has returned. If US complacency with regard to the 2009 Iranian elections and the current horrific situation in Syria is any indication, Israel should not rely on the US – or anyone else, for that matter – to stand together with it in the event of an attack.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin arrived at this same conclusion when he said on Tuesday, “Recent developments teach us that the prime minister must be prepared for a situation in which the international community will stand aside and do nothing, while Israel and the whole world is threatened.”
The West must learn from the 9/11 experience that, when faced with glaring evidence and direct threats of terror, it is time to act, not to wait.
The lessons of the 9/11 tragedy may be lost on the West, but Israel understands that failure to combat global jihad will result in further such disasters and, ultimately, the continued spread of radical Islam.