To most scholars of Western civilization, the re-establishment of an 'Islamic caliphate' would have calamitous consequences, essentially ushering in a return of seventh-century type radical fundamentalist Islamic domination over the Muslim world. The sort of rule associated with the Wahabist movement and sought by such violent regimes as the Afghanistan Taliban and terror organizations such as Al Qaeda. It reigned for over 500 years and spanned the Middle East, spread to Southwest Asia, North Africa and Spain. Needless to say, as a potential political weapon, throwing the term 'caliphate' around is akin to making unfounded threats about WMD and mushroom clouds. Which is exactly what the Bush administration is now doing in its desperate attempts to once again justify its colossal military blunder in Iraq.
As the NY Times reported this week, the caliphate bomb has been dropped repeatedly in speeches by various members of the Bush war cabal including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Eric S. Edelman, the under secretary of defense for policy; Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser; Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East; and VP Dick Cheney. And while Bush himself has not actually used the term caliphate, he's essentially described it last week when declaring that the terrorists are seeking to establish "a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain."
Also consider the following hyperbole and deception:
Cheney on Al Qaeda: "They talk about wanting to re-establish what you could refer to as the seventh-century caliphate...governed by Sharia law, the most rigid interpretation of the Koran."
Rumsfeld: "Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia."
Gen. Abizaid: "They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world." He's also told the House Armed Services Committee in September that the caliphate's goals include the destruction of Israel. "Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler's world in 'Mein Kampf,' we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words."
This sort of gloom and doom spinning is both irresponsible and reprehensible, and as usual, is right out of the Rovian playbook. But the Bushies' number-one Weapon of Mass Deception has always been truth-stretching and exaggerated threats. While re-establishing a caliphate is certainly a priority of Islamic radicals, there's virtually no chance of it ever happening, according to scholars and government foreign policy experts. There is a difference, they say, between the attacks that small bands of terrorists commit around the world and achieving large-scale global domination.
"It is certainly correct to say that these people have a global design, but the administration ought to frame it realistically," said John L. Esposito, an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University and founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. "Otherwise they can actually be playing into the hands of the Osama bin Ladens of the world because they raise this to a threat that is exponentially beyond anything that Osama bin Laden can deliver."
And Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, scoffed at the notion of an Al Qaeda-based worldwide Muslim domination. "There's no chance in the world that they'll succeed. It's a silly threat." He cited a recent Zogby poll of 3,900 people in six Arab countries which found just 6% supported Al Qaeda's goal of creating an Islamic state.
Reality and facts. You can bet neither will preclude the Bushies from further sounding the caliphate alarm.