Tuesday, September 23, 2008

“God Will Know His Own” – Do We?

While pursuing my duties last week as a volunteer at the Newseum in Washington, DC, I noticed a woman visitor writing down one of the many quotes liberally displayed on the museum’s walls. This led to conversation about how many of us share the habit of collecting the words of others. I mention the incident because the bombing of the Marriot in Islamabad brought to mind one of the quotations that I had recorded in my collection.

In 1209, a monk recorded the words of Arnaud-Amaury, Abbot of Citeaux and Papal Legate to the Crusaders led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester fighting against the Cathar heresy in Southern France: “Kill them all. God will know his own.” The Crusaders besieging the city of Beziers had finally breached the walls and were preparing to storm it. Simon de Montfort noted that not everyone in Beziers was a member of the heresy, so how should they be treated when the Crusaders capture the city? The monk recorded the answer as "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet." With that guidance, the Crusaders killed everyone they could find in the city.

The latest official death toll reported from the Islamabad bombing, as I write these words, is 54 dead and likelier to go higher. These 54 reportedly include the Czech Ambassador to Pakistan, two Americans employed by the Department of Defense, in addition to the many Pakistanis who were at the hotel and particularly its restaurant for the iftar – the meal that would break their daily fast during the celebration of Ramadan.

This last aspect of the attack should make it clear that the inchoate alliance of Islamic fundamentalists who are waging this struggle have defined it as one of them against the world. They have rewritten and adopted the Crusaders’ advice – “Kill them all. Allah will know his own.”

This should recall, for all of us who are the targets of this onslaught, the even older aphorism – “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Both we in the West, of whatever faith, and those in the Muslim world who reject the violence of these fundamentalists must recognize that we are in fact allies in this struggle and should act accordingly. Which brings to mind as well a saying of my own, “Never make an enemy accidently.” We in the West need to be certain that the leaders we elect and follow, and the policies and strategies which these leaders pursue on our behalf, are in fact directed towards success in the war against terrorism and do not accidently or inadvertently add to the numbers of our enemies.

“The more I reflect on the experience of history the more I come to see the instability of solutions achieved by force, and to suspect even those instances where force has had the appearance of resolving difficulties.” BH Liddell Hart: Thoughts on War, 1944

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” Bertrand Russell