Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Congressman Tancredo's Indecent Proposal

Tancredo: If They Nuke Us, Bomb Mecca
Monday, July 18, 2005

DENVER — A Colorado congressman told a radio show host that the U.S. could "take out" Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons.
Rep. Tom Tancredo (search) made his remarks Friday on WFLA-AM in Orlando, Fla. His spokesman stressed he was only speaking hypothetically.
Talk show host Pat Campbell (search) asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.
"Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.
"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.
"Yeah," Tancredo responded.
The congressman later said he was "just throwing out some ideas" and that an "ultimate threat" might have to be met with an "ultimate response."
Spokesman Will Adams said Sunday the four-term congressman doesn't support threatening holy Islamic sites but that Tancredo was grappling with the hypothetical situation of a terrorist strike deadlier than the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"We have an enemy with no uniform, no state, who looks like you and me and only emerges right before an attack. How do we go after someone like that?" Adams said.
"What is near and dear to them? They're willing to sacrifice everything in this world for the next one. What is the pressure point that would deter them from their murderous impulses?" he said.
Tancredo is known in the House for his tough stand on immigration and had a 100 percent rating last year from the American Conservative Union (search) his votes and positions on issues.
Mohammad Noorzai, coordinator of the Colorado Muslim Council (search) and a native of Afghanistan, said Tancredo's remarks were radical and unrepresentative but that people in Tancredo's position need to watch their words when it comes to sacred religious sites and texts.

My Reflection:
Someone should tell the good Congressman to shut his yap!
Having vented my frustration at such demogoguery, now let me, calmly and reasonably, lay out the case against such a moronic proposal. The global war on terror (hereafter GWOT) relies very much on Islamic allies as it does on our martial capabilities. Believe me, there are adherents to the Islamic faith who are reasonable, law-abiding citizens who love their country (I know quite a few of them). Yes, I do believe there are "moderate" Muslims, but as my good friend and colleague, John Mark Reynolds, has written in his blog, even if we were to identify all of Islam as "radical," the best approach would still be to make common cause with reasonable people within this major faith (which happens to be a great majority of its adherents), and support their efforts at reform. Bombing the holy sites of this major world religion would needlessly radicalize a bigger portion of the Islamic world.

Congressman Tancredo is hailed a s a conservative, and yet he lacks that very essential virtue which is at the heart of conservative thought-prudence. This classical virtue has a broader meaning than being "shrewd" or "cautious," as many modern dictionaries define it. In classical Ciceronian fashion, it is linked to doing things in a wise and excellent manner. Thus prudentia is intimately linked with virtus, or excellence. This in turn is intimately tied to sapientia, wisdom. This is how Edmund Burke used the term when he spoke of "expedience" ( a good Ciceronian term), taking it out of the realm of Machiavellian amorality and restoring it to its proper sense (see Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind, Washington: Regenary, p. 22). This is a good virtue for Congressman Tancredo to acquire if he is to have any credibility as a traditional conservative, and not simply a right-wing demogogue.

What would be the prudent thing to do in this GWOT? Prudence would dictate that we win the hearts and minds of our Muslim allies. Bombs and guns are not enough. See John Mark Reynolds' excellent and flawless argument:

The Islam of science, philosophy and medicine is not our enemy, any more than the Germany of Bach and Goethe, the Japan of Haiku poetry were our enemies in the Second World War (nor, for that matter, the Russia of Tchaichovsky and Dostoyevsky during the Cold War). It is clear who our enemies are in the GWOT, and they are NOT those fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who regard Mecca as the holiest site on earth.

I am reminded of a memorable passage in Robert Bolt's play, A Man for All Seasons, where Sir Thomas More rebukes his son-in-law, William Roper, for suggesting that all law should be stricken down if it stands in the way of justice. For More, this is inconceivable. He would even give the devil the benefit of law, and for good reason: " Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down (and you're just the man to do it!), do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake! "

Yes, and if those bombs were dropped on Mecca, Medina, the Dome on the Rock, et al, what will be our recourse be on that day when guns and bombs are turned against our churches, synagogues, and holy places revered by a good portion of Christendom: the Church of the Nativity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Constantinople, the Vatican? Prudence would dictate that we show the same respect for their holy sites as we would have them show ours-if for nothing else, for our safety's sake!

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