While counter-terrorism specialist Mike Tucker’s wonderful and harrowing 2004 account of his travels in Kurdistan, Hell Is Over, might not have made the sort of splash the author hoped in America, the Kurds were so grateful they gave him two houses. (He gave one back.) Since then he has ridden with American Special Ops in Fallujah and traveled to many other little known theaters in the War on Terror. Culling from these experiences, Tucker will be at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, on Monday evening to present a lecture entitled “The War Is in the Mosques: A Strategy for Victory in Iraq, and the Global War against Radical Islamic Terrorism.” Tucker was kind enough to check in from Bangkok to give AmSpec a preview:
After traveling through some of the toughest War on Terror hotspots you’ve determined “the road to victory goes straight through the mosques.” How did you arrive at that conclusion and what do you believe are the implications?
Mike Tucker: I’ve lived in Thai Muslim communities, Malay Muslim communities and Malay Muslim fishing villages, Emirati Arab communities, Kurdish Muslim villages and communities, and of course, in Iraqi Arab cities at war. The influence of Muslim clerics — imams — in all of those Muslim areas, and in all Muslim streets, deserts, and mountains, is immense. Nothing in the Western tradition really prepares you for this. The phrase, “The war is in the mosques,” is one I first heard from a Kurdish peshmerga commander in July 2003. I heard it repeated, without any prompting from me, by U.S. Army Special Forces A team leaders, by Delta Force commandos, by Sunni Arab translators, Kurdish translators, Shia translators, and Kurdish counter-terrorist commanders between 2003-2006.
If you deny radical Islamic terrorists mosques, you deny their primary means of communicating without electronic methods. In other words, radical Islamic terrorists have to communicate without being picked up by electronic surveillance methods, in order to plan attacks. They need a safe house to communicate, store weapons and munitions in, and to use as a Tactical Operations Center. That is what mosques are used for by radical Islamic terrorists. Under the Geneva Convention, once any religious house of worship is used as a house of war, it loses all of its privileges, however.
On the other hand, isn’t some of the squeamishness over opening a mosque front justified? How difficult will it be to target mosques without fostering mistrust among Muslims who might have no real affinity towards jihadists until they feel they are being grouped with them?
MT: No, squeamishness is not justified. The horror of September 11th and the radical Islamic terrorist attacks that preceded it completely justify any and all means we undertake to strike and kill all radical Islamic terrorists. Radical Islamic terrorists have taken it upon themselves to turn houses of worship into houses of war. That is their choice, not our choice. Our choice, and our duty to the American people — I’m speaking as a counter-terrorism specialist, now — is to defeat, destroy and annihilate radical Islamic terrorism, by any means necessary.
Do you believe there is an element of cultural/religious condescension in refusing to engage mosques clearly being run as a “house of war,” as if any behavior that occurs in a mosque is a legitimate part of Islam?
MT: The Western gutlessness on really taking on and taking down radical Islamic terrorism goes hand-in-hand with the Western academic myth of our time that Foucault and Derrida are God and Jesus — don’t know who the deconstructionists would nominate for the Virgin Mary, I reckon Germaine Greer — and all values are relative and all relative values are merely constructs. The West, especially the elite in our academy, foreign policy establishment, think-tanks, and throughout the U.S.. government, bends over backward to accommodate various and sundry illegitimate, illegal, beyond the pale behavior by Muslims.
What, then, is the role of moderate Muslims in your vision of how this war should be fought?
MT: Bush has failed, as has Rice, to reach out to moderate Muslims throughout the world, especially in key frontline nations like Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia. We have Cold War dinosaurs in power and to be fair, the Democrats have not been bold in offering anything radical and rooted in field wisdom, coming from combat, on this issue, either. Moderate Muslims are crucial to long-term victory. It is moderate Muslims who have to save Islam from radical Islam in the first place. We should be meeting with them, listening to them, taking good care of them, and bringing them into a International Counter-Terrorist Command. On this issue, as on so much related to the War on Terror, Bush resembles Millard Fillmore, not Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I love your story about the Kurdish Colonel who told you, “You’ve got to make it past lunch to get to dinner, of course. Eat the terrorists for breakfast before they eat you for lunch.” The Kurds I met in Mosul seemed baffled by the United States’ approach to the occupation and fighting the insurgency. Considering how long Kurds have been fighting on this turf do you believe they’ve been underutilized, either as counter-terrorism experts or force multipliers?
MT: Absolutely, the Kurds have been underutilized, as both counter-terrorism experts and force multipliers. I would immediately — meaning, now — back Kurdish independence 10,000 percent. They are the only real allies we have in the Near East, along with the Israelis. Never, never ignore guerrilla warriors in a guerrilla war, when you are on their turf and they are on your side. The best thing the U.S. Army can do, at this point, is leave. It is incredibly instructive that when the Kurds held Mosul in April 2003, they were never attacked by Iraqi insurgents. It is further instructive that key al Qaeda terrorists, especially from the Hamburg cell, have been captured or killed by Kurdish counter-terrorists — the counter-terrorism success of the Kurds in Northern Iraq, 2003-2006, is phenomenal. Give me 10,000 Kurdish peshmerga, Kurdish counter-terrorist forces,10th Group Special Forces, 5th Group Special Forces, Navy SEAL Team Six, and Commander Richard Marcinko as my deputy commander, and I will end our troubles in Mosul in 90 days, provided I have martial law and my rules of engagement are straight-up combat. Give me 50,000 Kurdish peshmerga, and three more Special Forces groups, plus Iraqi Army counter-terrorists, and I’ll give you victory in the guerrilla war in Iraq.
What is it about the Kurds’ counter-terrorism strategy that works so well?
MT: We ignore the power of the imam at our own peril — a radical Islamic imam has immense power and influence in any Muslim community. The Kurds understand this, and do not hesitate to pull an imam aside, once they verify that he is speaking out in favor of al Qaeda, and other radical Islamic terrorist groups and end his days as an imam. They don’t kill him. They give the imam a choice, at that point: Syrian border, Turkish border or Iranian border, and subsequent deportation. Terms of deportation: don’t set foot in Iraqi Kurdistan again or you will stay in jail for a very long time. The other choice is, the radical Islamic imam can take up residence in a Christian village. If he wants to build a mosque, he can, and he can convert as many Christians as he likes. The Kurds make it clear, however, that he will be watched very closely for the rest of his life.
Likewise, operationally, the Kurds have undercover surveillance teams in every mosque in Iraqi Kurdistan and Northern Iraq. That is fundamental to their success at taking down al Qaeda. The Kurds do not play the American PC game: “We can’t go undercover in mosques, Arabs have the right to express support for al Qaeda, there’s nothing we can do about this.” Wrong answer, say the Kurds. No one has the right to call for the death and destruction of Kurdish villages, Kurdish hospitals, Kurdish schools, Kurdish markets, and Kurdish men, women and children, sayeth Kurdish counter-terrorists, and the Kurds mean what they say.
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H/T to National Review Online