As a people, Americans are inclined towards fundamentalism and fundamentalism is not at its core about religion — it’s about belief buttressed by a disdain for reason.
The national dogma of the last decade or so has been an unquestioned belief in the righteousness and importance of fighting terrorism. In as much as this belief could be given a veneer of rationality, it is essentially this: America is good and terrorism is evil. Good must prove that it is stronger than evil.
Are most Americans worried about Jabhat al-Nusra? No. They’ve never heard of it. But if told that it is an al Qaeda affiliate, then most — whether Republicans or Democrats — will be duly concerned. Why? Because if it’s an al Qaeda affiliate then we all know what it wants to do: destroy America.
Is there any evidence that Jabhat al-Nusra, currently leading the fight against the Assad regime, will soon or ever turns its attention to destroying America? Not that I’ve seen. Even so, the State Department thought it would be a good idea to designate the group as a terrorist organization.
The Syrian National Coalition, which the United States now regards as the legitimate representative body for the Syrian people, thinks otherwise.
But didn’t some members of the Nusra Front demonstrate their anti-American tendencies by fighting against American troops in Iraq? Not exactly. Fighting against an American occupation is not the same as fighting against America. Moreover, the fight in Syria is yet another demonstration of how fluid America’s alliances often are. It’s not long ago that the demon at the center of this fight — Bashar al-Assad — was himself an American ally of sorts, valued in particular because of his willingness to interrogate and torture prisoners on the CIA’s behalf.
McClatchy reports: Right after the United States formalized its backing of a new Syrian opposition group Wednesday, the mutual unease underpinning the partnership surfaced as the group’s leader openly criticized the United States for declaring the rebel movement’s Nusra Front a terrorist group linked to al Qaida in Iraq.
Sheik Moaz al Khatib, head of the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, asked the Obama administration to rethink its labeling of the Nusra Front, stressing that the militant faction was integral to the fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad.
“The logic under which we consider one of the parts that fights against the Assad regime as a terrorist organization is a logic one must reconsider,” Khatib told reporters in Marrakesh, Morocco, after more than 100 nations agreed to recognize his group as the “legitimate representative” of the Syrian people.
Khatib’s tacit endorsement of Nusra was echoed by many rebel commanders inside Syria and signals a thorny road ahead as U.S. officials attempt to disentangle nationalist or relatively moderate rebel factions from the Islamist extremists who have become perhaps the leading military force in the nearly two-year fight to topple Assad.
“We love our country. We can differ with parties that adopt political ideas and visions different from ours. But we ensure that the goal of all rebels is the fall of the regime,” added Khatib, a Muslim cleric who’s complained in the past that blueprints for a post-Assad transition were too secular.
U.S. officials did not react to Khatib’s statements, but Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said in Morocco that Khatib had been invited to visit Washington soon. [Continue reading…]