[FOUNTAIN]The war still rages on

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[FOUNTAIN]The war still rages on

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has sent letters this year to three foreign leaders: U.S. President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac. The letters were sent between May and July, when the controversy over Iran’s nuclear development had peaked.
He derided President Bush. He alleged that U.S. intelligence agencies were possibly involved in the Sept. 11 terror attacks and said no evidence of weapons of mass destruction was found in Iraq, although they were the justification for going to war. He also elaborated his perception to the world that belief in Allah, not democracy or liberty, can solve the problems we are facing today. Mr. Ahmadinejad called the letter an invitation to Islam, but Mr. Bush brushed it off and said the letter was a strategic way to bypass the nuclear matter. In the letter addressed to Ms. Merkel, Mr. Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and the legitimacy of Israel, violating German law.
Letter diplomacy is an Islamic tradition. The Prophet Muhammad sent letters to the leaders of Byzantium and Persia, and they contained a message that unless the empires welcomed Islam, they would be annexed. After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini revived the tradition. By giving a lecture to a powerful country on the opposite side, a leader can manipulate the populace.
The Bush administration responded with megaphone diplomacy. The United States does not sit across the table from hostile enemies. Instead, Washington pressures countries with speeches and public announcements. President Bush’s “axis of evil” speech epitomizes that style. The megaphone diplomacy has “a gun in one hand and democracy in the other.” A letter and a megaphone are different means with the same substance. Both urge the other side to accept its own beliefs.
The Bush administration recently held up the megaphone again. This time, the enemy was Islamo-fascism. With Islam covered with fascism, Washington has a wider front to fight. Mr. Bush has said, “The war we fight today is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.”
The fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is approaching. The world has changed since the tragedy.
However, the world views of the major players have not changed. Instead, the discrepancy has been aggravated. Unless your God is my God, the war must go on. Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” is not a prediction, but a reality.

by Oh Young-hwan

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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