Ignoble Legacy of Jihad?—Diana West on Ambassador Stevens and the Libyan Jihadists

Diana West has posted the third installment (see also parts 1 and 2) of her uniquely incisive analysis of the late US Libyan Ambassador Stevens’ “interactions” with the jihadists of eastern Libya, their hub being Derna. Elsewhere, I have described Derna’s rich legacy of jihadism—including anti-American jihadism, since the Barbary jihad wars during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, through the town’s highest per capita contribution of homicide bombers who killed and maimed US troops in our recent engagements in Iraq.

Using, in particular, classified cables made public via Wikileaks, Diana’s singular contribution has been to analyze without politically-correct blinders the Ambassador’s alarming “rationale” for the Derna jihadists’ depredations—including their murderous attacks on the very best of Stevens’ countrymen, US soldiers fighting in Iraq.

One of Diana’s key observations, below, about anti-infidel jihadist zeal even in the absence of strict Sharia compliance confirms anthropologist Evans-Pritchard’s 1949 characterization of how the Bedouin of Cyrenaica, i.e., Eastern Libya, “compensated” for their less than assiduous fulfillment of the ritual requirements of Islam, by their zealous commitment to jihad. Here is the full description from the original (1949) text by Evans-Pritchard:

It would [also] be a questionable judgment to assert that the Bedouin of Cyrenaica are not religious because they do not pay the same attention to outward ritual as do townspeople and peasants, for piety and holiness, as we have often been admonished, are not the same…Perhaps the Bedouin make up for their shortcomings by their enthusiasm for the jihad, holy war against unbelievers. They consider that they have fulfilled their obligation under this head in ample measure by their long and courageous fight, formally declared a holy war by the Caliph of Islam, against the Italians, French, and British. A Bedouin once said to me when I remarked how rarely I had seen Bedouin at prayer: “nasum wa najhad, (but) we fast and wage holy war.”

From Diana’s analysis:

Stevens continued:“A heavy influx of Arabic-language satellite television … also fostered a hard view of the world. … Not everyone liked the ‘bearded ones’ (a reference to conservative imams) or their message, [Redacted] said, but the duty of a Muslim in general — and a son of Derna in particular — was to resist occupation of Muslim lands through jihad. ‘It’s jihad — it’s our duty, and you’re talking about people who don’t have much else to be proud of.’ ”

Derna’s residents might take issue with attempts to ban smoking or restrict social activities, but there was consensus on “basic issues”  like jihad. This is a striking comment, and in keeping with other cable reports attesting to both the normalcy and acceptance of jihad among the population at large. Interestingly enough, it is only the manners and mores of sharia — smoking bans, restricted social activities — that are at all controversial in this culture. Jihad, then, becomes a defining attribute, and, a deal-breaker for making common cause, or so an average American might think.

More central to Diana’s thesis—and our travails in Libya, and vis a vis Islamdom overall—is the willfully blind, obsequious denial of the animus Islam itself generates toward non-Muslims, and specifically, Americans. She continues:

But in the next sentence Stevens seems to fall back to invoking the political propaganda of Al Jazeera as a driver of general violence. It’s not that Al Jazeera doesn’t play a role in inciting jihad and anti-Americanism; obviously, it does. But the role it plays it reinforced or, better, enabled by Islam itself. Stevens then goes on to apply what might be described as a Western gloss: “Depictions on al-Jazeera of events in Iraq and Palestine [sic] fueled the widely held view in Derna that resistance [sic] to coalition forces was ‘correct and necessary.’ Referring to actor Bruce Willis’ character in the action picture ‘Die Hard,’ who stubbornly refused to die quietly, he said many young men in Derna viewed resistance against Qadhafi’s regime and against coalition forces in Iraq as an important last act of defiance.”

West concludes:

Thus, the evolution of US foreign service thinking: When Islam has nothing much to do with anything, it’s Die Hard time in Derna. So, take away Qaddafi, you take away “resistance,” right? Q: When did removing Qaddafi become US policy in Libya? Most of us only heard about it last year. Libyans, meanwhile, seem to have been suspicious for some time. In a cable dated August 29, 2008 preparing for Sec State Rice’s visit to Libya, Stevens noted: “Conservative regime elements are still wary that our ultimate goal is regime change.” Was it?

It is quite plausible that the moral and geostrategic blunder of abetting jihadism in Libya—epitomized by the Die Hard jihadists of Derna—to topple the Libyan despot Qaddafi, ultimately resulted in the death of one of the leading avatars of that misbegotten US policy, Ambassador Stevens.

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism " (Prometheus, November, 2008) You can contact Dr. Bostom at @andrewbostom.org

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