“Aesop’s Fables,” which originated in the sixth century B.C., say
that the Greek god Hermes traveled the world with a cart full of
wickedness and deceit, distributing a little to each country as he went.
According to Aesop, when Hermes reached the Arabs, the cart broke down
and the inhabitants plundered its contents.

European prejudice against the Arabs has a long history. In the first
century B.C. the Romans seconded Aesop’s opinion after a leading general
— Marcus Crassus — was betrayed by an Arab chief named Ariamnes.
Crassus was slain and his army was lost in the sands of the desert.

Aside from the destruction of Crassus’ army, the Arabs did not play a
very important role in history until the appearance of Mohammed — the
prophet of Islam. Mohammed’s religious teachings resulted in a long
series of wars, which continue today. The 19th century British
historian, Henry
Hallam, wrote, “The people of Arabia … found in the law of their
native prophet, not a license, but a command, to desolate the world.
…”

The Belgian scholar, Henri Pirenne, explained the significance of the
first Arab conquests in a work entitled “Mohammed and Charlemagne.”
Pirenne’s research attempted to show that the collapse of Roman
civilization was not due to the Germanic invasions of the western Roman
Empire, but to a
general economic collapse brought on by Arab victories which closed off
Mediterranean trade.

Relying on ancient records, Pirenne shows that the Arab conquests of
the seventh century ruined the merchants of Italy and other western
provinces. Urban life became unsustainable as tax revenues plummeted.
Artisans and urban workers were forced to take up subsistence farming.
The Arabs, said
Pirenne, had effectively blockaded and strangled the western parts of
Europe. Perhaps in doing this, they helped to form the West — as a
distinct entity.

Today a new kind of blockade and strangulation threatens the West.
Oil is the lifeblood of the developed world. And today the Arabs (along
with Iran) control the vast oil reserves of the Middle East. Of course,
Europe and Arabia are at peace today. But there is a point of
contention. The
existence of Israel is viewed by some Islamic fundamentalists as part of
a latter-day crusade against the Islamic world. Osama bin Laden, the
infamous Saudi-born terrorist, once said, “Our enemy is the Crusader
alliance led by America, Britain, and Israel. It is a Crusader-Jewish
alliance.”

Not all Muslims — or Arabs — are enemies of America and the West.
The Arab world (and the Islamic world in general) can be divided between
those who hate the West and those who believe in a necessary and
positive partnership with the West.

But the bitter conflict between Jews and Arabs over the Holy Land has
made things difficult for moderate Arabs and Muslims. What is more, the
Arab-Israeli conflict has been exploited by Moscow. From the outset,
many Arab countries sought military assistance from Soviet Russia
because of the West’s sympathy for Israel.

But it was Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt from 1970 to 1981, who
first recognized that Moscow was the main threat to the Arab world (and
to Islam). After coming to power, Sadat discovered that East European
communists had infiltrated Egypt. They sought to co-opt him or
assassinate him in favor of someone they could manipulate. Sadat
therefore threw out his Soviet advisors. He broke with Moscow to forge a
new relationship with the West. Therefore, Sadat took great personal
risks to make peace with Israel. He also worked to unite Arab countries
against Soviet aggression in Afghanistan.

Tragically, President Sadat was assassinated on Oct. 6, 1981, by
members of a radical Islamic fringe group. Hosni Mubarak, Sadat’s
handpicked successor, nonetheless continued Sadat’s friendship with
America and peace with Israel. In fact, Egypt played a decisive role in
containing the 1990 aggression of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s Egypt became a leading voice
for moderation and accommodation with the West. Without Egypt the Gulf
War coalition could not have been formed. Without Egypt the Saudi oil
fields might have fallen to Saddam.

But now things have changed.

Last week a leading Egyptian military commander, Field Marshal Abd
Al-Halim Abu Ghazaleh, said that war with Israel is inevitable. He also
said that Israel has three serious military weaknesses that it cannot
easily overcome. Sad to say, Field Marshal Ghazaleh is probably right.

What Ghazaleh’s statement indicates is a tremendous change within
Egypt’s ruling circles. Egypt is no longer interested in peace with
Israel. Egypt is no longer opposed to Saddam Hussein. The relationship
between Egypt and the United States has broken down. The shocking story
of how this came about is revealed in Yossef Bodansky’s recent and
acclaimed book, “Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America.”

According to Bodansky there was, in 1997, “an apparent secret deal
between the (leading) Islamist terrorists and the Clinton administration
that drove Egypt into de facto cooperation with the Islamist(s) …
against the United States.”

It appears that Clinton signaled the radical Islamic enemies of Egypt
that he was — in Bodansky’s words — “willing to tolerate the overthrow
of the Mubarak government in Egypt and the establishment of an Islamist
state … as an acceptable price for reducing the terrorist threat to
U.S. forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

On learning of Clinton’s willingness to betray him, President Mubarak
changed Egypt’s policy toward the West. In fact, Mubarak made peace with
Islamic militants and other anti-Westerners. The Iranians, previously
hostile to Egypt, are now extending a hand of friendship to Mubarak. In
the
February 1998 Iraqi crisis, when Saddam Hussein refused to cooperate
with U.N. weapons inspectors, Mubarak effectively blocked Arab support
for any use of force against Iraq.

In the wake of the Camp David fiasco, as the peace process itself
breaks down, the Russians are rubbing their hands. Clinton’s blunders
are the raw stuff of Kremlin joy. On July 14, according to Russian press
reports, 50,000 Russian troops were ordered to reinforce military
districts facing down on the Middle East. The following day President
Vladimir Putin met with his generals. Even more ominous, there is a
rumor in Moscow that America will soon be hurting in the Middle East.
Not only this, but Yasser Arafat has threatened to declare a Palestinian
state next September.

If Bodansky’s report is true, President Clinton has wrecked America’s
position in the Middle East. Like so many other actions of Clinton, we
find that our friends are compromised as our enemies are assisted.

Aesop had it wrong about the Arabs. Hermes’ cart filled with
wickedness and deceit wasn’t plundered in Arabia. It broke down and was
plundered in Arkansas — by Bill and Hillary Clinton.

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