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Saturday, September 02, 2006



An English philosopher, Horace Walpole, is best remembered for one quote. He wrote “The world is a comedy to those who think, and a tragedy to those who feel.” While I admit to being a “feel” type person much of the time, I did have reason to find some dark humor in several news stories in the last two or three days. While the circumstances are anything but humorous, I did find a sardonic variety of amusement in the following stories.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan announced, with a perfectly straight face, that Syria would increase it’s monitoring of the Syrian and Lebanese border to halt any arms shipments to Hezbollah. Apparently, Mr. Annan believes that the Iranian, Chinese and Soviet weapons used by Hezbollah against Israel were smuggled into Lebanon without the knowledge or participation of the Syrian government. My first thought was that Kofi would have a very successful career as an actor in Hollywood after his term expires in the United Nations. His ethics, political outlook, prejudices and obvious talent at delivering the most outrageous statements as fact would be a nice fit in the fantasyland of the entertainment industry.

My second thought was that he may actually believe the things he says. If that is the case, I have some retirement property in Florida that he may wish to buy. It can be viewed at low tide, but only during the dry season. Bring your hip waders Mr. Annan, for more reasons than just the mud.

The second item that brought a wry smile to my face was the release of a new al-Qaida tape from al-Zawahiri., the second in command of that terrorist organization. Mr. al-Zawahiri threatened continued death and destruction to Americans, and all things associated with Western culture. While this was not new, he did offer to mitigate this mayhem if Americans would immediately convert to Islam. According to Mr. al-Zawahiri, a mass conversion of Americans would be viewed positively by the Jihadists, and our lives would be spared. Like Mr. Annan’s Syrian announcement, these pronouncements were made with a perfectly straight face. What made me believe this was actually a satiric monologue, rather than a serious statement, were the things left unsaid.

Muslims in Afghanistan who believe in education, more freedom for women, voting for political leaders, and other aspects of modern culture are routinely murdered by the adherents to the seventh century philosophy as enforced by the remnants of the Taliban. Mr. al-Zawahiri did not explain which type of Islam he expects us to embrace.

In the same vein, Mr. al-Zawahiri did not specify if he expects us to become Shiite or Sunni Muslim. While Americans may believe the distinctions are similar to deciding between becoming a Baptist or a Lutheran, Muslims seem to take this much more seriously. Events in Iraq show quite clearly that many Sunni Muslims take great pleasure in slaughtering Shiite men, women and children, while Shiite Muslims seem to share this value system as they continue to abduct, massacre and bomb scores of Sunnis on a daily basis. Making the wrong choice of which sect to join appears to carry some serious ramifications.

Also untouched is the matter of ethnicity. In the Darfur region of Sudan, Arab Muslims continue to murder, rape and dispossess tens of thousands of Black African Muslims. Does this mean that if we convert to Islam, White American Muslims will be required to make war against Black American Muslims? And since I am not an Arab, which ethnicity would I have to join?

The final unstated requirement has to do with Jihadist factions. I would assume Mr. al-Zawahiri would expect us to join al-Qaida, or at least support them. However, relationships between different terrorist organizations seem to be a tenuous matter. Having to choose between al-Qaida, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and the plethora of lesser known organizations can be a dicey thing, since they are apt to shoot at each other almost as often as they shoot at us.

All of this leads me to suspect that the offer to spare Americans from murder if we convert to Islam is actually an expression of Mr. al-Zawahiri’s wry sense of humor. He knows that even if we do convert, we will almost certainly make some wrong choices among the multiple options I have mentioned. Therefore, we would still be targets, and the continued efforts of the Islamists to exterminate us could continue unabated.

OK Mr. al-Zawahiri, we get the joke. Perhaps you and Mr. Annan could form a comedy act after your regular employment ends. Kind of an alternate universe Martin and Lewis. I’m just not sure which of you would be the straight man.

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