August 20, 2004

Najaf, Muqtada, and November 20, 1979

The next time you hear a lefty bemoaning--bewailing--that the US is desecrating one of the holiest sites in Islam with military action, remind them of November 20, 1979. November 20, 1979, you ask? As usual, A-double-lizzle has a long memory, suited to his role as ominiscient supreme being of the blogosphere.

1979---the year of Khomeni, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and this milestone event. All orchestrated by a then-drunk George Bush and a Karl Rove so manipulative, so evil, that he could influence events half way around the world from his job as night manager of the Piggly-Wiggly in Austin. Suspicious timing, indeed...

Somewhere down on my to-do list is go find Francis Fukayama and give his "End of History" head a couple of good swirlies in the toilet.

One last word: do you think Muqtada's read Dune one too many times? Mehdi Army, my divinely directed ass.

SPOILER: In the extended section I have the larger passage Allapundit was linking to:

Allahpundit links to a review of Yossef Bodansky's Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America

Soon Islamist youth in Egypt and elsewhere had forceful proof of the righteousness of their cause. On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran, overthrew the shah, and established the Islamic Republic. Throughout the Muslim world the masses celebrated the success of Khomeini's Islamic Revolution as the triumph of Islam over the United States and the West. The Islamic Revolution became a source of pride and envy to all Muslims, as well as living proof that local rulers could be over-thrown by Islamist forces. The impact of Iran was strong in Egypt because Sadat invited the deposed shah to take shelter there, a flagrant affront to the sentiments of most of the population.

The radical Shiite movement was the force behind the Iranian Revolution, and its development in Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq was almost simultaneous to and paralleled the evolution of Sunni revivalism in Egypt. By the late 1970s the philosophy of the revolutionary Shiite thinkers, as expressed in their writings, was very similar to that of the radical Sunni standard-bearers. Their approach to the diagnosis and cure of contemporary problems and their emphasis on the singular importance of confrontation and struggle were virtually identical. Saudi Arabia, in the middle, was exposed to the mounting Islamist fervor.

Saudi Arabia was the first of the traditionalist conservative states to erupt in Islamist violence. On November 20, 1979, the Grand Mosque in Mecca was seized by a well-organized group of 1,300 to 1,500 men under the leadership of Juhayman ibn-Muhammad ibn-Sayf al-Utaibi. A former captain in the White Guards (National Guard), he now declared himself a "mahdi" (messiah). In addition to the Saudis the group's core included well-trained mujahideen (Islamic holy warriors) from Egypt, Kuwait, Sudan, Iraq, North Yemen (the YAR), and South Yemen (the PDRY). Egyptian and Soviet sources estimated the total number of rebels to be 3,500. Although the assault was in the name of the return to the purity of Islam, most of the 500 leading attackers had been trained and equipped in Libya and especially South Yemen by instructors from East Germany, Cuba, and the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). These attackers included Communists in command positions who demonstrated excel-lent organizational and tactical skills. Furthermore, fifty-nine of the participating Yemenis had been trained in Iran and received weapons via the Iranian Embassy in Sana.

During the preparations for the assault Juhayman's men had recruited several members of the elite White Guards and received active support in the smuggling of weapons and equipment into Saudi Arabia and the mosque itself. A White Guards colonel was among the senior instigators of the plot and organized the smuggling of the automatic weapons, provisions, and supplies into the mosque. The bulk of the weapons used had been brought from South Yemen over a lengthy period. The rebels also smuggled in huge quantities of food and drinking water to supply them-selves and their supporters for a long siege.

On November 20, after a brief firefight to secure control of the Qaaba (the center of the Grand Mosque complex, containing the holiest shrine of Islam), Juhayman addressed the crowd of trapped pilgrims and asked for their support. Sermons and discussions of corruption, wastefulness, and the pro-Western stance of the Saudi royal family quickly gained the rebels widespread support among the worshipers. Before long most of the 6,000 pilgrims taken hostage asked to be issued arms so that they could join the revolt. Juhayman's sermons gained sympathy even among the leftist and quasi-Marxist students. News of Juhayman's sermons incited militant mobs throughout Saudi Arabia to storm local mosques and government posts. Latent subversive elements came to life as almost simultaneously with the seizure of the Qaaba a series of bombs exploded in places sensitive to the royal family in Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, and Riyadh. Among these targets were palaces, personal and official offices, and businesses.

Initially the White Guards reacted chaotically to the attack and suffered a humiliating defeat. Moreover, growing discontent in the ranks of the Saudi elite units led the royal family to fear that even they might rebel. The Saudi security forces settled for a siege of the mosque that lasted about two weeks. In the end the rebellion was only subdued by a special detachment of French paramilitary special forces, antiterrorist experts who used stun grenades and chemical weapons.

The uprising in Mecca shook the world of accepted norms in Saudi Arabia. The grievances raised by Juhayman echoed throughout Saudi Arabia, being whispered about in closed meetings. In intellectual circles his arguments made people stop and think about Islam and the society they were living in. A thinking and well-read individual, Osama bin Laden was influenced by the social issues Juhayman raised. But although the crisis of November 1979 reinforced bin Laden's conviction that only an Islamic government could shield Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world from the evils of encroaching Westernization, he remained a loyal subject of King Fahd and the House of al-Saud.

OSAMA BIN LADEN' S WORLD, like that of most Muslims worldwide, was jolted in the last days of 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In the late 1970s Afghanistan -- a desolate and backward landlocked country -- was ruled by a Soviet-sponsored Communist government being challenged by Pakistani-sponsored Islamist subversion. With the Communist regime increasingly unstable, the Soviet armed forces marched into Afghanistan, occupied the country's strategic infrastructure, assassinated the president, and replaced him with a docile Soviet puppet. They also began a systematic campaign to suppress the Islamist subversion.

The Soviet invasion was the first time since World War II that non-Muslim forces had occupied a Muslim country -- and these were anti-Islamic Communists to boot. Little wonder that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the last days of 1979 shocked the entire Muslim world to its core. The occupation of a Muslim state by Communist forces insulted the most basic sensitivities of Islam. But however immense the shock and however great the condemnation by the Arab states, little was actually done.

Posted by Steve at August 20, 2004 12:46 AM | TrackBack
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