The Jihad and Christopher Stevens (Part III)

by DIANA WEST October 31, 2012

In the last installment, I examined cables written by Christopher Stevens in 2008 (and available courtesy Wikileaks) that seem to capture a significant trend in his thinking, and, perhaps the thinking of others in the US government, which may have helped drive the evolution of the disastrous US "Arab Spring" policy that put Uncle Sam in alliance with al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and other groups driving the spread of sharia (Islamic law).

This trend appears as Stevens learned how to explain -- how to rationalize, really -- the jihad corridor that eastern Libyans in particular followed to fight Americans in Iraq. While the Washington Post today quite narrowly (ignorantly) tells readers that Derna sent more jihadists to Iraq "during the U.S. occupation [sic] than any other place in Libya," the larger truth is that eastern Libya, led by Derna and Benghazi, sent more jihadists to kill and maim Americans -- whose Iraq "occupation," by the way, included fighting AQ, preventing Sunni-Shiite civil war and "nation-building" all at the same time -- per capita than any place in the world. And, as discussed in Part 2, the citizenry is extremely proud of this ultimate anti-American fact.

The explanation, to Stevens, had little to do with an Islamic culture well-primed to heed the age-old Islamic call to jihad. Citing the poverty, boredom and Al Jazeera (as though poverty, boredom and Al Jazeera would inexorably lead all people everywhere to strap bombs to their bodies and kill Americans while yelling Allahu Akbar), Stevens passed along the rationale of a source who described the men of the region as engaging in "extremism in the name of religion" -- never, ever mind the "extremism" of the "religion" itself as reinforced by the pride the local culture took according to these same cables, in such "extremism."

This pride, however, still bothered Stevens, who wrote: "The most troubling and difficult aspect of [redacted's] account is the pride that many eastern Libyans ... appear to take in the role their native sons have played in the insurgency in Iraq."

What did Stevens mean by "difficult"? What obstacle to what path did he have in mind? He wrote this, by the way, in February 15, 2008. By June 2, 2008, Stevens seemed have found his way around this difficulty: The anti-Western, jihadist activity of eastern Libya, he concluded in the June 2, 2008 cable, was largely due to local frustration with Qaddafi's regime. This was the message, loud and clear, pressed upon him by a source he had met accidentally ("accidentally"?) over lunch at the Derna waterfront in May 2008. In sum, Qaddafi was the problem. Eliminate Qaddafi, and the anti-American animus would be eliminated, too. (This is discussed in Pt. 2.)

Of course, that was also the goal of violently anti-American Al Qaeda and its affiliates in the Mahgreb. This shared AQ goal would become US policy in 2011, and Stevens would become a major broker of this policy on the ground in Libya.

This didn't seem possible in June 2008, a time when, also according to the June 2 cable, eastern Libyans "feared the US would not allow Qaddafi's regime to fall and therefore viewed direct confrontation with the GOL (Government of Libya) in the near-term as a fool's errand."

Wasn't that further reason to uphold our agreement to support Qaddafi? Apparently not to people like Christopher Stevens, who have a different outlook than the average American. (Remember Stevens' and the US embassy's solicitousness of ex-Gitmo al Qaeda detainees repatriated to Libya, including Bin Qumu, now leader of Ansar al-Sharia (described in Part 1.)

The June 2, 2008 cable continues:

Rejecting the idea that Derna was uniformly extremist, [Redacted] and his business partner described the town as being divided between religiously conservative and secular residents. ... Elaborating, [he] attributed more extreme iterations of Islam to "unnatural foreign influences" on religious practices in Derna. ...

Really? The cables next elaborates on this notion of foreign or prodigal Libyans returning home with an unnatural, rather than purely Islamic message. For good measure, it throws in "a dearth of social outlets" and a weak educational system as conditions that further "enabled conservative clerics" -- always as if people are unable to swing a few more "social outlets" and improve education somewhat instead of sending their sons to "martyr" themselves in jihad.

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. 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.

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 SecState Rice's visit to Libya, Stevens noted: "Conservative regime elements are still wary that our ultimate goal is regime change."

Was it?

To be cont'd.

Diana West is a journalist and columnist whose writing appears in several high profile outlets. She also has a website:

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