What we are fighting against is an Islamic terrorist totalitarian movement which is as dire a threat to individual liberty as the fascist and communist totalitarian threats we faced and defeated were in the last century.... What we are fighting against is the prospect of a new evil empire, a radical Islamic caliphate which would suppress the freedom of its people and threaten the security of every other nation's citizens...A new Caliphate! Jeee-hosaphat. And don't you love the "beyond", as applied to Bangkok? What's "beyond" Bangkok? Honolulu? Hollywood?
Restoring the caliphate -- the seat of secular and ecclesiastical power that existed for centuries across a wide territory -- is their goal.... They would create a new evil empire, stretching from Istanbul to Islamabad, from Khartoum to Kabul, from Kuala Lampur to Bangkok, and beyond.
This demented reverie is clearly the product of some insulated, self-referential, cultic world of discourse. More specifically, it's a case of Caliban determined to see his own face in a mirror.
Some years ago, I was sitting harmlessly in a diner on the upper west side of Manhattan, trying to read a book -- a shallow detective novel, probably -- when two young men, obviously Columbia students, slid into the booth next to me. They were both wearing yarmulkes (so what were they doing in this treyf joint? I dunno, ask them) and they fell to talking about some program they'd just heard. "So -- once we get across the Bosphorus -- it's a cakewalk, all the way to Berlin. Our tanks -- they've got nothing to compare." It took me a while to figure out that what they had in their minds was a fantasy of Israel -- that's the "we" -- dominating Western Europe militarily. And "they", of course, was -- well, everybody in Europe, from Pristina to Paris.
Now in one way these two were crazy, obviously, and in another way not. I bet they graduated from Columbia and got good jobs and I don't suppose they spend much time, these days, fantasizing about Israel as a global power. But their craziness, quite clearly, was a shared craziness, a collective craziness. They had come from a meeting, at an Ivy League university -- a third-rate one, to be sure, but still -- and these were ideas they were hearing bruited about.
Now I can't be absolutely sure that either of them grew up to be Joe Lieberman. I didn't really get a good look. I was mostly listening, and pretending not to, a harder thing than it sounds. But reading Joe's words about the International Caliphate Conspiracy, I couldn't help thinking back to the hothouse world my two zealots lived in. Joe's picture of the Caliphate is an uncanny mirror-image of my guys' apocalyptic vision of Much Much Much Greater Israel.
This stuff about the new Caliphate is utterly mad. But Joe, like my neighbors in that diner, long since razed to make room for Columbia dorms, is not a pathetic solitary madman. He has a community of thought behind him. The Committee on the Present (And Never Ending, You Can Be Sure Of That) Danger includes people who have published books, people who have won prizes. I do believe Saul Bellow was part of it, even before his death became too obvious to deny.
So... we have a guy who's not only vile, but a dangerous, delusional, cultish madman, "representing" the Nutmeg State. And we have nice, well-spoken, good-looking people like Barbara Boxer going to bat for him. Because, forsooth, the Democratic Party is our last best hope.
Well, if that's true, folks -- then we are fucked.