Friday, July 25, 2008

Moscow Rules

Boris Got it Right
By David R. Stokes

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. displays a list of what are called Moscow Rules – commonly accepted guidelines for the good guys during the Cold War. Basically, they are based on a through-the-looking-glass approach to reality, where nothing is as it appears to be.

Some directories note as many as forty of these espionage nuggets, including things like, “float like a butterfly; sting like a bee” (guess who inspired that?), or “Murphy is right,” or “technology will always let you down” (actually, I think that one’s true). But ten are in the commonly accepted list:

1. Assume nothing.
2. Never go against your gut.
3. Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
4. Don’t look back; you are never completely alone.
5. Go with the flow; blend in.
6. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
7. Lull them into a sense of complacency.
8. Don’t harass the opposition.
9. Pick the time and place for action.
10. Keep your options open.

Author Daniel Silva has brought these deep-background precepts to life in his latest novel that bears the actual name, Moscow Rules. His eleventh book is a bit of a departure from recent ones because it shifts from using the Middle East as a backdrop in favor of the intriguing world of present-day Russia.

The spy novel has come back home.

With the feel of a Cold War story, and a pace unmatched by most war-on-terror thrillers, this book is likely Silva’s best to date. Spy-Mystery-Thriller writers all have their favorite characters. John Le CarrĂ© gave us George Smiley, William F. Buckley introduced us to Blackford Oakes, Jack Higgins writes about Sean Dillon, and, of course, there’s Vince Flynn’s creation, Mitch Rapp. But in art restorer-Israeli top spy Gabriel Allon, Silva has a hero for all seasons, shapes, and sizes - a man who is intensely human, fiercely intelligent, and quite good at what he does.

In Moscow Rules, Allon finds himself moving with ease between worlds of religion, politics, and history. From the Vatican, to a CIA house in Georgetown, to the dark and dank inner-sanctum of old Soviet-style brutality in the Lubyanka, he’s a hero for everyone who still believes that there are good guys and bad guys.

Mr. Silva’s style matches the prose gold standard of Mr. Le CarrĂ©. He then, however, leaves the Brit far behind to wallow in his well-worn and historically inaccurate arguments about Cold War moral equivalency between east and west. Moscow Rules reminds us that the U.S. and Israel, though far from perfect, provide the world a vital strategic partnership against enemies of freedom. And it’s especially important to have such a relationship up and running when nations like Russia and Iran draw close to each other for their own ends and agendas.

In a sense, Daniel Silva has written a new Cold War novel. By that I mean, a story that’s very much about how an old enemy has come back from the abyss to taunt and haunt us once again. History is repeating itself. This time, however, the weapon we ultimately used to defeat that old “evil empire” – our economic strength – is no longer completely available to us. And it’s very available to them.

Today’s Russia is vastly different from the empire we tried to contain fifty years ago. It’s a place no longer marked by colorless uniformity and severe deprivation. Quite the contrary, today we find a land of great contrasts and contradictions. And we also find a nation recently flooded with petro-dollars.

If the Soviets of old had been able to tap into that kind of resource-driven wealth, the Cold War would have never ended. And the rules of engagement, even history itself, would have been very different.

The fact is that Russia today represents a greater threat to the security of the world than it ever did in the days of Cold War bipolarity. And our old adversaries are taking great pains to reconstruct an empire, one that would include their strong presence, as was once the case, in the Middle East.

Daniel Silva’s story is told against this backdrop, and it has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel. Readers encounter stories that are reminiscent of recent real-life dramas such as the intriguing murder of former FSB Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, who died while investigating the death of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. The new Russia is starting to strongly resemble the old Soviet Union - only with nicer cars.

Along the way, the novel takes the reader on a jet-set paced ride to places like Saint-Tropez, Courchevel, Paris, London – but back time and again to Moscow. All the while it tells a cautionary tale, one that should be widely heard these days. It’s not just the Islamists we should be watching – and watching out for – we need to keep our eye on that big old bear roaming once again in the global woods.

As Russia becomes stronger and stronger, and as its leaders tighten the reins more and more on all aspects of national and international life, the world becomes a more dangerous place with each passing day. Vladimir Putin and his puppet, Dmitry Medvedev, have an agenda. They have empires in their brains. And, if the past is any indicator of the future (of course it is!), they will also play by a sinister set of rules - the most important one being: the ends justify the means.

When it comes to characters out of Cold War literature and media, I can’t help but resonate with something said by Boris Badenov. No, he wasn’t a KGB leader. Nor was he ever on the wall overlooking Red Square as the missiles rode by on May Day.

Boris was a diminutive fellow with a distinct accent who, along with his wife and side-kick, Natasha, tried to foil the good guys, Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose. He had a memorable saying I thought about as I read Daniel Silva’s book, Moscow Rules. It came to mind every time one of the bad guys did something rotten. In fact, what Mr. Badenov had to say should be heeded by both candidates for the presidency this year.

He said: “Never underestimate the power of a schnook.” - DRS

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yankee Stadium's Best Night

The recent 2008 Major League Baseball All Star Game-and-a-half showcased not only the game’s current best and greats from yesteryear; it also starred a structure. The venue was the message.

As Yankee Stadium brings athletes and fans through its gates as part of a stationary farewell tour, we are witnessing the end of an era – one that has spanned eighty-five years. The house that Ruth built has been home to the New York Yankees since before the days when their line-up was dubbed Murderer’s Row. Ghosts of legends like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle surely inhabit the place.

But the edifice located at East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx has been much more than a baseball park; it’s been America’s premier outdoor stage. If we were to pick a place that is to us what the Coliseum was to Rome in days of glory, most would nominate Yankee Stadium.

Of course, this does not mean that we are a nation of Yankee fans – certainly not. You don’t have to root for pinstripes to understand the magic of the place itself.

If we look beyond baseball (and stay with me on this, I am not, nor have I ever been, a communist), and its inseparable relationship with the stadium, we note that the field has provided the backdrop for many sports and cultural events that transcend the game. From concerts, to religious services, to a national memorial service for victims of horrific terror just twelve days after 9/11, Yankee Stadium has been part of the scenery of American life.

When it comes to sports, the stadium has not just been a place for home runs, but also the field of battle for gladiators of the gridiron and soccer stars. And, of course, there was the boxing.

It’s been more than thirty years since a championship fight was held at Yankee Stadium (Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton in September of 1976), and they were becoming rare events for the venue even then. But during the sweet science’s heyday in the 1920s-1950s, the stadium ring planted over second base was the scene of many epic battles.

Sugar Ray Robinson, often referred to as the greatest “pound for pound” boxer of all time, had already won welterweight and middleweight titles. On a dreadfully hot night in June of 1952, he tried to win the light-heavyweight crown against champion Joey Maxim. And he was clearly winning when he succumbed to heat exhaustion in the 14th round. He did, though, last longer than the referee, who had been carried out two rounds before.

Jack Dempsey, on the comeback trail seeking a rematch with Gene Tunney, fought at Yankee Stadium in 1927. Tunney fought there, too. In fact, there were 30 championship fights held on that field.

Calling something the best, or greatest, or most significant, is always subjective, and therefore risky. But I think I'm right when I suggest that Yankee Stadium’s greatest moment did not involve Babe Ruth, or even Reggie Jackson. It wasn’t even a baseball game.

Seventy years ago last month, two boxers climbed into the famous stadium’s ring and squared off in the most historic boxing match, if not sporting event, of the decade – maybe the century. Max Schmeling and Joe Louis had fought in the same ring two years before, and the former world heavyweight champion from Germany had somehow, some way, found a flaw in Louis’ style.

The Brown Bomber from Detroit (by the way, the Yankees would soon be called “Bronx Bombers” as a take off on Louis’ nickname), as he was called, had been well on his way to pugilistic immortality, easily dispatching opponents - even former champions - hardly breaking a sweat. He seemed to be invincible. But the first fight with Maxie ended with Joe on the canvas in the twelfth round trying to remember who and where he was.

This was the 1930s and the world was a very ominous and confusing place. Hitler’s Nazi-Germany was on the move, and he was beginning to look invincible himself.

Schmeling, because he was a German, was blocked from fighting James J. Braddock for the title, even though he was clearly the number one contender. It fell to Louis to fight the Cinderella Man in 1937, who was defending his title for the first time. And Louis went down in round one of that fight – only to come back strong and knock Braddock out in the eighth.

Yet, though he was the champion in name, Louis knew that he wouldn’t be able to think of himself that way until he could settle his score with Mr. Schmeling. Most fight fans felt the same way.

In ancient times there was something called representative warfare, where one man from an army would do battle with an opponent sent by the enemy, and the larger conflict would be decided by this “one on one” ordeal. The Philistine giant, Goliath, who taunted the ancient Israelites was proposing this kind of settlement to the issues of his day. Then he met a boy named David.

In 1938, as the world was becoming increasingly polarized in the face of impending war, and as it was becoming clear to all people of freedom and good will that the Nazis were evil, the situation was ripe for a representative battle of sorts. And the rematch of Joe Louis and Max Schmeling fit the bill.

So, on June 22, 1938 veteran referee Arthur Donovan gave his ring instructions to two determined boxers, as nearly 70,000 Yankee Stadium spectators looked on. More than 100 million radio listeners tuned in from around the world. This was the largest audience ever up to that time and included just about half of the American public. That morning, the New York Journal-American had a large cartoon in the paper, one that showed a stadium and two figures in a boxing ring. Hovering above the ring was the image of an immense globe bearing the face of a man. He was looking down on the scene on behalf of all humanity.

Yes, it was that big of a deal that night.

Author David Margolick, in his definitive account of that evening entitled, Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink, wrote:

“The fight implicated both the future of race relations and the prestige of two powerful nations. Each fighter was bearing on his shoulders more than any athlete ever had. One didn’t need to be an anthropologist to know there had never been anything like it, or a soothsayer to know there would never be anything like it again. If Louis won, no rivalry on the horizon could possibly generate as much excitement. And with Europe and, inevitably, America, on the brink of war, the world would soon enough have more than prizefights on its mind.”

If you ever get a chance to see a film of the fight that night, try to find the audio of the radio broadcast by NBC’s Clem McCarthy as well. His gravel-voiced blow-by-blow description turns the ear into an eye. Joe Louis was ready this time – he knew what he was fighting for and he didn’t want to waste any time.

Seven seconds into the bout, Joe Louis snapped the head of his opponent back with a left-jab, then another, and another. Later opponents would suggest that Louis’ jab wasn’t an Ali-type flick, but more like putting a light bulb against your face, then breaking it. Thirteen seconds later he had Schmeling on the ropes. McCarthy could hardly keep up:

“And Louis hooks a left to Max’s head quickly! And shoots over a hard right to Max’s head! Louis, a left to Max’s jaw! A right to his head! Louis with the old one-two! First the left and then the right! He’s landed more blows in this one round than he landed in any five rounds of the other fight!”

You get the picture.

In two minutes and four seconds it was over. But no one felt cheated. There were no catcalls that might usually accompany a lop-sided battle. Referee Arthur Donovan later said: “A referee lives a lifetime in two minutes like that.”

So does a nation.

The rest is history. The defeat of the German in the ring didn’t slow the world’s long slide into war – nor could it have. Louis went on to fight again and again and again, defending his title successfully fifteen more times before December 7, 1941. Schmeling went home in disgrace. Nazis didn’t like it when someone from their master race got beat up by a black man.

A few months after the fight, on November 9, 1938, as Nazis terrorized Jewish businesses and houses of worship during Kristallnacht, Max Schmeling sheltered two Jewish young people in his hotel suite in Berlin.

Joe Louis served his country in uniform during the war and emerged after to continue his career, though the clock was running out on his days of glory. He died in 1981, and Max Schmeling, who lived to be just seven months shy of a hundred years old, died in 2005.

Their brief, but explosive meeting in June of 1938 at Yankee Stadium captured the attention of the world and imagination of our nation. So, as the great ballpark fades – and the new replaces the old – it should be remembered as a place for more than baseball.

Yankee Stadium has been a field of dreams, history, and glory. - DRS

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Big Anti-Semitic Lie that Won't Go Away

(Column to appear at, Sunday, July 13, 2008)

The Big Anti-Semitic Lie that Won’t Go Away
By David R. Stokes

While fires were still smoldering at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and in a Pennsylvanian pasture, malicious people conjured up an evil myth. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many in the Arab world believed that the vicious attack on America was not the work of Islamists, but rather was an Israeli-driven Mossad operation. This legend soon developed muscular legs and is now widely regarded by millions of Muslims as the truth.

And why not? For decades school children in Muslim nations (not to mention their parents at home) have been baptized in anti-Semitic narratives. The opinions in their world about Jews in general, and Israel in particular, are concrete – thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

And the most persistent and pernicious ideas that have been accepted by millions as factual truth flowed from the poisonous pen of a guy named Mathieu Golovinski.

The spurious publication called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an Islamist must-read. The work tells a story that fits the pattern of long-standing prejudices. The words reinforce the visceral hatred Islamists have toward Jews.

Islamist anti-Semitism is not a new thing. It didn’t begin with the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, or the Six-Day War in 1967. It was around long before there was a Hitler – in fact, it grew up alongside Islam from the beginning. It’s an enmity that can be traced back to Muhammad and what he said, wrote, and did. And to those looking for ammunition to use against people they have been historically conditioned to hate, the often denounced and repeatedly refuted forgery is just what the evil doctor ordered.

In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, it is true that non-Muslims and non-Nazis have at times bought into the notions set forth by the Protocols - some even in the name of Christianity. This is sad. But it is also statistically rare these days. Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan types apparently still peddle the book, but these people are the proverbial skunks at our national picnic. And eighty years ago, there were a few prominent Americans (automobile magnate Henry Ford notable among them) who endorsed the writings. But that was a passing, though very regrettable, thing.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion purports to be written evidence of a vast and secret Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. It’s presented as a factual and detailed description of a late-nineteenth century meeting to plot international Hebrew hegemony through manipulation and treachery. These ideas are at the root of the mother of all conspiracy theories for those who live in the bizarre world of alternative historical reality.

In fact, the publication is a forgery – probably the most sinister and infamous fake in literary history.

The year is 1898, and Nicholas II rules a Russia that’s beginning to experience the revolutionary stirrings of modernism. The Tsar is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and tends to be easily led by strong people around him. He tries to take incremental steps toward leading the nation away from its feudal past, but some in his court are alarmed. Thus, evil men began to seek a way to short-circuit these liberalizing influences.

If only they could convince the Tsar that the voices of change he’s listening to are motivated by something other than the best interests of Russia – but how? It was in this environment that the greatest of all anti-Semitic lies was born. A threatening conspiracy would be manufactured - one that would bring Nicholas to his senses – and the Jews to their knees.

Mathieu Golovinski was living in Parisian exile at the time. Though he was Russian, having been born in the Simbirsk region in 1865, he was forced to flee after repeated clashes with Russian authorities, usually having to do with his tendency to fabricate documents and evidence in legal matters. He was a master of spin, innuendo, and dirty tricks. He was also very skilled in the arts of forgery and plagiarism.

And he worked for the Okhrana – the Tsar’s secret police.

He was approached by agents’ provocateur from the Tsar’s inner circle about creating a convincing anti-Jewish legend. They needed a narrative, one that would be seen as proof of a sinister plot behind the winds of change beginning to blow in Russia. Golovinski was commissioned to fabricate the evidence.

He came across an old book, written in 1864 by an anti-monarchist activist named Maurice Joly. It was entitled, Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquie and was written as a thinly disguised attack on Napoleon III’s rule in France. The book was suppressed by the French government and the writer was imprisoned. He committed suicide in 1878.

A plan was hatched to borrow from this obscure book, changing some of its cosmetics and phrasing. It would be recast, using Joly’s fictional dialogue for a model, as the actual deliberations of a secret cabal of Jews bent on taking over the world. When the fake was finished, it was spirited back to St. Petersburg, and all that would be needed was a way to get it before the ruler of the realm.

Enter the other religious zealot in and around the court of the Tsar.

When most think of religious influences around Nicholas II, attention is usually given to Grigori Rasputin, the mad monk who haunted that scene beginning about 1905. But often overlooked, and certainly more ominous as far as long-term impact on the world is concerned, is the influence of his cultic contemporary, Sergei Alexandrovich Nilus. He was a writer on religious matters and a self-styled spiritual mystic.

And he is also the man who first published Golovinski’s sinister forgery.

Initially placing the Protocols as a chapter in one of his books, Dr. Nilus saw to it that the potentate was fully briefed and convinced about the purported Jewish threat. And like Rasputin, he also had the ear of ruler’s wife – so the Tsar, never a man to have his own firm opinions, fell prey to the lie. And in the days following his nation’s defeat at the hands of the Japanese at a loss of several hundred thousand men, not to mention overwhelming financial expense, circumstances were ripe for the rotten fruit of a compelling scapegoat story.

On January 9, 1905, the Tsar’s troops opened fire on protesters who peacefully marched near the palace in St. Petersburg. This would become known as Bloody Sunday. The Tsar and his inner circle saw in the Protocols the real reason for the unrest – it was a big Jewish plot to overthrow the monarchy.

So it began – the gargantuan conspiratorial lie that has reared its hideous head time and time again over the past one hundred years. Jewish plotters were blamed for The Great War (1914-1918). Then in its aftermath, when Germany was struggling to recover from defeat, the big lie was discovered by the greatest demagogue of the day, Adolf Hitler. By the time the future German dictator was sent to prison in 1923, he was well versed in the Protocols and drew significantly from the forgery as he wrote his own hate-filled and delusional tome, Mein Kampf.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion became, to men already filled with anti-Semitic ideas, proof positive of a sinister Jewish agenda. To those who believed the lie, the writings were sufficient evidence for the indictment, condemnation, and eventual execution of these conspiratorial people. The Protocols in many ways fueled the Holocaust.

Yet all along, reasonable people – scholars, journalists, and statesmen – have gone to great lengths to expose the fraudulent nature of the Protocols. Beginning with a lengthy analysis in the Times of London in 1921, to a celebrated trial in Switzerland in 1935, to a report by the United States Senate in 1964, good people have said again and again: “the book’s a fake.” Good people still do.

It’s the bad people who are the problem.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the biggest publishing hoax of the past one hundred years, is not going away. This is largely because Islamists are using it, with great effectiveness, to fan contemporary flames of hatred. In fact, it’s arguable that there are more copies of this lie-laden text extant, than ever before. The forgery is used by politicians and clerics in the Muslim world to justify their distorted and destructive world-view.

Gamal Abdel Nassar, the late president of Egypt, recommended the book to his countrymen. His Saudi contemporary, King Faisal, had the forgery put in hotels in his nation, like Gideon Bibles (he once gave a copy to Henry Kissinger). The Ayatollah Khomeini, who took over in Iran in 1979, made the Protocols a national bestseller. An entire generation of Islamic thinkers and scholars now aggressively promotes the forgery as literal fact.

Hamas owes Article 32 of its charter to these long-ago-discredited writings when it says things like: “Zionist scheming has no end…Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of Zion.” And it’s, of course, a perennial favorite with Holocaust deniers such as that wacky Iranian, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Islamist anti-Semitism is at the root of the so-called War on Terror. The bad guys use the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as their proof-text. It would make sense that if we really want to eradicate the symptom we must deal frankly with the cause. Islamism isn’t an aberration. It’s an ideology based on prejudices rooted in the distant past and lies that won’t seem to go away.

Shortly before his death in early 2005, the legendary pioneer of twentieth-century graphic art, Will Eisner, a man who spent much of his life debunking the infamous forgery, called the Protocols a “terrifying vampire-like fraud.”

Indeed. - DRS

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hitler's Favorite Jihadist

Hitler’s Favorite Jihadist
By David R. Stokes

As members of the Allied Expeditionary Force entered the landing crafts that would transport them to their rendezvous with history in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, they received individual copies of the Order of the Day drafted by their Supreme Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He had given the go ahead for the massive invasion, code named Overlord, in spite of weather that was less than inviting. He wanted the men to understand what they were fighting for – and against.

He told them:

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”

In those days leaders weren’t as concerned about the politically correct parsing of phrases and words as some seem to be today. It was clear to them that they were not fighting mere “flesh and blood” but abhorrent ideological wickedness (“Nazi tyranny”). And they passed that clarity onto those who were engaged in the perilous fight.

So, why is it so hard for some today to call things as they are?

We are not fighting a war on terror. We are fighting against a pernicious way of thinking. Terrorism is a methodology – a way to fight a battle. The technique itself is not the enemy. Our foes are people and regimes who, in the name of foul opinion, perpetrate destruction. Just like back in the 1940s.

Can you imagine what it would have sounded like if Ike, FDR, or Churchill had been bound by the sensitivities of our day? We would have been “battling the blitzkriegers,” or maybe “bringing to justice those who dared to attack too early on a Sunday morning,” - hardly clarion calls.

Wars make more sense, and they tend to be conducted with greater vigilance and effectiveness, when we understand things in terms of good vs. evil. But these days it’s hard to even bring up the idea that militant Islam is to blame, much less to frame the current conflict as a war against it. History, however, leaves clues that remind us that there is really not much new under the sun.

David G. Dalin and John F. Rothman have written a new book, one that should be read by all Americans seeking to understand current geopolitical reality, called: Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam. They make a compelling and well-documented case that we are actually fighting the quasi-spiritual offspring of Nazism and Fascism.

Haj Amin al-Husseini (1895-1974) is by no means a household name today, but his story is a key historical plot-point helping to create the mess we now find ourselves in. From his appearance on the stage of turbulent Middle Eastern politics in 1921, until his death fifty-three years later, he was a consistent and vociferous voice preaching a blend of anti-Semitic, anti-Western, and pan-Islamic rhetoric to anyone who would lend an ear. And there were plenty of listeners. There still are. He was the grand mufti (maximum leader) of Muslims in Palestine – the big kahuna.

Mr. al-Husseini’s political journey was driven by a radical interpretation and application of Islam. He was an effective and charismatic leader of a vast movement - forerunner of the various manifestations of Islamic fanaticism extant. This virulent form of his religion took hold during the period between the two world wars and grew to become the plague it is on all houses of freedom.

And it turns out that al-Husseini was a big fan of a man by the name of Adolf Hitler. The number one Nazi liked him, too.

In November of 1941, a little more than a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was a meeting in Berlin, one that is often relegated to a footnote in the history of that great global conflict. Haj Amin al-Husseini made his way from the mansion he’d been provided by the Nazis toward the Reich Chancellery, where he was to meet Hitler in the dictator’s private office. Dalin and Rothman describe this ominous meeting in great detail.

The mufti sought to ingratiate himself with Hitler and the strategy was reciprocal. They pledged allegiance to each other. And why not? They had common goals and enemies. The German leader bestowed honorary Aryan citizenship on his guest (Hitler interpreted al-Husseini’s blond hair and blue eyes as evidence that the Islamic leader must have possessed some “pure” blood) and it was clear that his visitor was keenly interested in being set up as the Nazi leader in Palestine and its surrounding region.

Al-Husseini eventually recruited 100,000 European Muslims to partner with the Waffen-SS, and the authors of Icon of Evil hint at the idea that the cleric-politician was influential in the decision to implement the notorious Final Solution. He was good buddies with Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichman.

Nazis and radical Islamists – together. Nothing good could come of that, and in fact, a lot of today’s bad stuff was incubated in that Berlin laboratory.

One of the most captivating portions of Icon of Evil is devoted to the question: What if Hitler had been victorious and the war had turned out differently? Drawing on similar previous musings by writers such as William L. Shirer, John Keegan, and David Fromkin, the duo shares a chilling narrative about how radically different life would be today had Hitler won. This is important not just because of the horrifying idea of a Hitler-dominant Europe – but also due to what the Middle East would look like in such a case. Al Husseini wanted to extend the Holocaust beyond the borders of European living space to the Middle East. His goal was something near and dear to the heart of the depraved men running the Third Reich – a Palestine that would be virtually Judenrein (a reprehensible Nazi term literally meaning: “clean of Jews”).

Then there’s the story of how this wicked preacher was able to avoid the Nuremberg trial dragnet, in spite of clearly being guilty of egregious war-crimes. He would not be brought to justice, but rather would live out his days back in the Middle East. His post-war work included becoming something of a mentor to men who would become famous in his cause. What do Gamel Abdel Nassar, Anwar Al Sadat, Yassir Arafat, and Saddam Hussein have in common? They were all connected with, and deeply influenced by, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Hamas and Hezbollah are very much part of his legacy, as well. He worked closely with the theoretician of radical Islam, Sayyid Qutb, as well as Saddam’s infamous uncle, General Khairallah Talfah. The guy was connected. And the usual suspects he ran with paved the way for everything from the attacks on September 11, 2001, to the maniacal rantings of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In fact, some of Haj Amin al-Husseini’s spirit is in the intellectual and emotional DNA of every current radical Islamist.

Now, here’s what really bugs me – why could we fight a war nearly seventy years ago, all the while referring to our enemies as Nazi thugs, and yet today be so concerned about sensibilities that we’re reduced to, at best, rhetorical beating-around-the-bush?

The war we are in is not against a weapon, no matter how dreadful that weapon is. We are fighting a virulent ideology. To be brutally honest about it - to call our enemies today terrorists, or even Islamo-Fascists, is not strong enough.

They are Islamo-Nazis and they’re really bad people - like the German-Nazis were.