What a telling quotation: “You love life and we love death.” If so, what recourse do we have except to give them what they love?
That quotation, from “Al-Qaeda’s chief military spokesman in Europe,” was pulled from Blood & Rage: a Cultural History of Terrorism by Michael Burleigh; i.e., specifically from this review of the book: “The theatre of cruelty,” in the London Telegraph on-line.
(Alan Dershowitz, in “Worshippers of Death” in today’s Wall Street Journal, notes a similar statement from Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah: “We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.”)
We haven’t read Burleigh’s book yet, but from the review the ideas in it sound familiar. Burleigh examines “the moral squalor, intellectual poverty and psychotic nature of terrorist organisations, from the Fenians of the mid-19th century to today’s jihadists – the latter group, especially, being composed of unstable males of conspicuously limited abilities and imagination.” Burleigh’s terrorist operatives are, in the words of the reviewer, “sour, lazy nobodies, ugly, of febrile imagination and indifferent talent, who can only become somebody by blowing others, inevitably persons more talented and intelligent, up.” Added to which, as Dershowitz notes in his article, radical Muslim women have recently been encouraging their sons to become martyrs — if not becoming martyrs themselves.
This all sounds familiar because it runs close to something we wrote back in 2002. In our Ornery American essay, “Yogi Berra, Polybius, and the Recurring Jihad,” we took a page from Polybius and noted that, with respect to the attacks on 9/11/01,
the nineteen assassins were young, “full of unrelenting passion,” not suffering from want or deprivation but well-educated and well-financed, and exasperated against us on the basis of their own imaginings. They and their successors differ from the Gauls [the group Polybius wrote about], however, in having an ideology that screams for conflict. Islam does not mean “peace,” but “submission.” If we forget that, we may cry out “peace, peace” when there is no peace.
There is something noble about being willing to sacrifice one’s self for a just cause. Even as we recognize that, however, the question becomes whether we believe their cause — the cause of death — is more just than ours. And the answer must be no. It cannot be.
They love death. So be it — may it come to them sooner than it comes for us.