BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Paul Berman, what is "Terror and Liberalism," about?
PAUL BERMAN, AUTHOR, "TERROR AND LIBERALISM": "Terror and Liberalism" is my response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. It`s my theory of the terror war. And beyond that, it`s a book in which I lay out a long account of the last two centuries of life in the Western world, and in the world as a whole, in order to explain the predicament in which we find ourselves in lately.
LAMB:I wrote down, when I read the book, "my own social democratic heart," referring to yourself -- "my own social democratic heart."
LAMB:What brought you to write that?
BERMAN: Well, I`m a man of the left on most issues, certainly on all domestic issues. I favor greater social equality, higher taxes for more social equality, more strength to the trade unions, universal health care, gun control, abortion rights. I favor a left-wing program domestically. I think that, in most ways, domestically, society in Western Europe is -- in many ways, domestically, society in Western Europe has a lot to teach us here in the United States. So in all those ways, I`m a man with a social democratic heart.
On the other hand, the position I`ve taken on -- on the different wars we`ve been in lately has -- has been a little different from most people with views like mine on domestic matters. But when I say "my own social democratic heart," I`m -- I`m quite sincere. I`m a social egalitarian. I`m -- I`m in favor of -- we could go on through the social issues.
LAMB:Where did all that start for you?
BERMAN: Well, I`m somebody who came out of the radicalism of the `60s, and I`m -- as a student, I was active somewhat in the Civil Rights movement, in the anti-war movement against Vietnam. I think those two movements were excellent and did a lot of good things for the country, in spite of the bad things that can be said, and I`ve said some of the bad things myself. And I`m somebody who came up in a family that owes everything to the trade union movement. If my family has had some advantages in life, those came out of the -- in some degree, out of the trade unions. Without the AFL-CIO, I wouldn`t have had the advantages in life that I`ve had. And I look back on the New Deal and that sort of thing -- I think that that did a lot of good for working people and working families and for people like me.
LAMB:Where did you grow up, and what was the family like?
BERMAN: I grew up in the suburbs of New York. It`s old New York family from the great Eastern European Jewish immigration from early in the 20th century and -- typical family of that sort.
LAMB:Where`d you go to school?
BERMAN: I went to -- I went to public school in the suburbs of New York. Then I went to Columbia University.
BERMAN: At Columbia I studied history. Literature in some degree, but mostly history. And then I was in graduate school for a few months, but I couldn`t really last in school. I was too much of a free thinker, maybe too much of a radical at the time. In any case, I was always someone drawn -- drawn to follow my own interests in books and literature and ideas and that kind of thing. So I`ve always been, intellectually speaking, a freelance. I`m not a professor, I`m a freelance writer. The kind of intellectual work I do is not that of the academy, it`s in the old-fashioned tradition of the New York intellectuals.
LAMB:You dedicate your book, or at least -- maybe it`s not -- not a dedication. You actually have two quotes at the front of your book, one from Albert Camus, and someone whose name I`m not going to even try to pronounce because I`ll bet you can.
BERMAN: Said (ph) Qutb.
BERMAN: That`s right.
LAMB:Why the two?
BERMAN: Well, the two because Albert Camus was a great French philosopher, and Said Qutb was an Egyptian philosopher. Albert Camus was born in Algeria. So in a certain sense, he was a North African. Qutb is an Egyptian, who is also a North African. Said Qutb was the philosopher of Islamist radicalism. He`s really the greatest theoretician or intellectual behind the radical Islamist currents that have given rise of al Qaeda, as well as other groups. Camus was a man of the left, of the free-thinking left in France, who also managed to be great -- one of the great philosophers of mid-20th century anti-totalitarianism, one of the philosophers who could tell us the most about what is the totalitarian mentality, what is it that drives people to want to engage in mass killings from practical aims, that kind of thing.
So on one hand, Qutb and Camus were contemporaries. They -- in certain respects, they had a lot in common. But I think in Camus, you can read the analysis of what`s wrong with, or what is the nature of the thinking of Qutb. So they are -- they are a kind of an odd couple. And those two thinkers, the ideas of those two thinkers really form the two poles of my book, that -- what I`m able to do in the book, I think, or what I try to do is to lay out the philosophy, the deep thinking that has gone behind Islamist radicalism and the kind of thinking that the people in al Qaeda engage in. I think I`m able to lay that out on one hand, and on the other hand, I`m able to offer an analysis of where that comes from, what it really means, what it`s about. And my analysis derives in good part from Albert Camus. So the two thinkers are my -- my two poles.
LAMB:Let me go to Qutb for a moment because you say he went to the University of Northern Colorado?
BERMAN: He did. He did. He grew up in Egypt. He had a traditional education in Egypt, studied in Cairo. He was a modern man of the 1920s and `30s. He was a socialist intellectual, a literary man. He wrote novels. He wrote a book of literary criticism. And in the late `40s, he was able to go the University of Northern Colorado and study education. He was a worker in the ministry of education in Egypt.
Yet at the same time, he was already by then an Islamic fundamentalist of a moderately radical sort. After he returned from Colorado -- he returned to Egypt in 1951 -- he became more radical. By 1954, he was in prison in Egypt and in prison under the most -- under the most barbarous circumstances, in a hideous cell with 40 other prisoners, most of whom were criminals, not political prisoners like himself, with a radio blaring most of the hours of the day, blaring the -- a tape recorder blaring the speeches of the president of Egypt, Nasser, who had put Qutb in jail.
And under these circumstances -- Qutb spent most of the rest of his life in prison. He was out a couple of times, but most of the rest of his life. And under these circumstances, his thinking became more radical. His Islamic fundamentalism became more radical, took a more political turn from what I would call Islamic thought to a political radicalism based on Islamic thought, which is what I call Islamism, to distinguish between Islam and Islamism, Islamism being the political, the radical political movement based on Islam.
And in these circumstances in prison year after year, he wrote a gigantic commentary on the Quran called "In the Shade of the Quran," which in Arabic is in 30 volumes. I don`t read Arabic, but I`ve read what there is in English. At this point, I`ve read about half of it, which is, I think, everything that there is in English. And what he does in this book is he goes through the Quran chapter by chapter, sura by sura -- is the names of the chapters in the Quran -- summarizing what is said and offering his commentary and a general exposition and going off in all directions to comment on what meaning this ought to hold for contemporary life. And in this form, he laid out his general philosophy, and his general philosophy was quite radical, really a revolutionary philosophy.
LAMB:Let me ask you, how did -- how did he die?
BERMAN: He was hanged. He was hanged in 1966 by Nasser. He and Nasser actually knew each other. Nasser came to power in 1952 as part of a nationalist revolution, a pan-Arabist nationalist revolution in Egypt, overthrew the old king, was intended to lead Egypt in a nationalist revolutionary direction, as part of the general anti-colonialist or third-worldist revolutions around the world.
And at first, Qutb and Nasser were allies. Qutb was the intellectual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic fundamentalist organization -- Nasser the nationalist, somewhat secular nationalist. They were allied in some degree. There was some talk or some belief among Qutb`s followers, at least, that Qutb might have ended up with the ministry of education under Nasser`s revolutionary regime, but instead, the two factions -- the somewhat secular nationalist radicals and the Islamist revolutionaries -- fell out. They had different visions of what the revolutionary movement ought to do. Qutb ended in jail. And finally, in 1966, Nasser hanged him.
LAMB:Go back to the -- you say he had 30 volumes.
LAMB:How -- this is a couple hundred pages. How -- how big would each volume be?
BERMAN: Well, let`s see. In the English edition -- in English, it`s going to be -- when it`s finally brought out completely in English, it`s going to be 15 volumes, and each of those volumes is, I think, 300 or 400 pages. So this is -- this one gigantic book.
LAMB:All right. I have maybe a naive question. How can you write that much about this subject?
BERMAN: Well, there are many disadvantages in being in prison, but one advantage is that you might have a lot of time on your hands. In any case, Qutb -- Qutb was a genuinely talented man, I mean, a brilliant man and an extremely well educated man. And he knew the Quran backwards and forward. In fact, he`d memorized the Quran by the age of 10.
LAMB:Memorized every word.
BERMAN: Memorized every word.
LAMB:What is it, 800 pages or something like that?
BERMAN: Oh, it`s long. It`s -- and it`s like the Bible. And he`d memorized the whole thing, which -- which was and is the traditional method of education. And I mean, it used to be the same -- I mean, a medieval Jewish education was the same, and I`m sure there are many traditions of Christian education that are identical. So he knew the Quran backwards and forwards, and he was able to write his commentary.
He wrote it -- he wrote it -- I`m sure that he wrote it as a -- as a pious exercise that a pious Muslim reads and rereads and rereads and studies, engages in a lifelong study of the Quran. And I imagine that Qutb`s method of doing that for himself was instead of just thinking his own private or personal thoughts, actually just to sit there and write them down.
LAMB:Who -- at what level do you write for? I mean, I can hear people listening -- at this stage in the game of an interview like this, they`re either gone...
LAMB:... because they say, "I don`t care about that stuff, it`s off in some other place"...
LAMB:... or they say, "Maybe I can really get some insight into why these Islamists or whatever do what they do." I mean, what level of intelligence do you write for?
BERMAN: Do I write for?
LAMB:Yes. I mean, when you`re thinking about -- when you`re at the computer or however -- how do you write, by the way?
BERMAN: I write sometimes in hand in my notebook, then back to the computer, then -- then scribbling on the printout. I write every -- every which way.
LAMB:And I guess the reason I`m asking you this -- because the reason that we`re doing the book is that I -- you have been quoted in so many articles because -- since this book came out.
LAMB:It seems like one of those that caught on somehow.
LAMB:Do you -- first, do you know how it caught on? What was the first thing you did to introduce the fact that this book existed, that people started reading it in the -- you know, in the intellectual world?
BERMAN: Well, I`ll explain -- I`ll answer all those questions. At what level do I write at? I try to write at the absolute most serious level, and I -- I take my own ideas seriously, and I`m -- I don`t water them down. And so I`m writing at the most serious level I can. At the same time, I take great pleasure -- it`s one of the joys of my life to write as simply and lucidly as I can. If something strikes me as humorous, that goes in, too. And so if I can write about serious things with a light touch, I`m -- I`m delighted to do it. And I try to do that.
At the same time, when I wrote this book, I brought a lot of emotion to it. So the book is powered with emotion, as well. So it`s a book about ideas, the most serious ideas that I`ve been able to come up with about the most serious topics, which are death, totalitarianism, terror, how we should respond to it, things like that, religion. But -- and I`ve -- I`ve filled this sail with all the emotion that I`ve had about it, and I`ve tried to do it with as light a touch as I can.
So I think of it as a book on the most serious topics, but it`s directed toward any reader who has an interest in this kind of thing. It`s not a book directed just toward experts.
LAMB:How`d it catch on, though, with the intellectuals?
BERMAN: Well, it caught on -- it caught on in a series of ways. The original version of the -- of the book is something that I wrote as an essay in a matter of days after September 11, 2001, and the original essay under the same title ran in "The American Prospect" magazine, which is a small liberal magazine. And that caught on a bit.
But the main thing is that after I`d written this thing, "The New York Times" magazine asked me to take a section of it, the portion on Said Qutb, who we were just discussing, and to adapt it for their pages. And I did that, and it ran in "The New York Times" magazine, the cover story on Qutb as the philosopher of radical Islamism. And I think that attracted a lot of attention.
At the same time, who`s to say how books catch on? I turned on the "Charlie Rose Show" one day and discovered Richard Holbrooke talking about the book with Charlie Rose. That fascinated me, and I`m sure that caught some people`s attention. But mostly, how a book catches on is -- is a mystery.
LAMB:Well, then, let me go far beyond the book and go into a mosque somewhere...
LAMB:... in the Middle East. And if you were to sit down with someone who follows Islam and ask them what is it -- and let`s say they`re radicals, and you say, What is it we can do to stop the terrorism? What would they tell you if they were being -- based on your -- your investigation of this?
BERMAN: Well, if somebody`s a radical -- I don`t know what you mean by radical. If they were -- if they were really a -- somebody who`s in the -- in one of the several movements or currents of thought that descend from Said Qutb and people like that, what they would tell us would be -- well, if they were going to be really honest, they would...
LAMB:No, I want you to tell us if the -- what they would say if they were honest.
BERMAN: Well, the doctrine that comes out of this really is to spread Islam in this particular politicized version, which is not identical to all versions of Islam, all over the world and to make Islam the world religion and rescue all of mankind by bringing Islam to mankind.
LAMB:OK, then go to the politicized version. What are the things that would be required in a society for them to say, OK, we`ll stop the terrorism?
BERMAN: Well, I mean, the goal of the terrorism, as conceived of by the followers of this kind of thinking -- the goal of the terrorism is to advance the notion of jihad, which is the struggle for Islam, as conceived in this version, and the goal plainly -- I mean, the goal is at different levels. At one level, it`s -- it`s really to destroy the kinds of societies that are not upholding the principles of this version of Islamism.
LAMB:Those principles are?
BERMAN: Those principles -- well, the principles of this kind of Islam -- let me explain further that I`m saying -- other people would answer this question by saying that the goals of this kind of terrorism are specific political goals, that the goals are to force Israel to withdraw its settlements or to force the United States to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia or to force certain other specific kinds of political issues. But that`s not actually how I understand the movement. My understanding of the movement is really that the goals are much larger, much more revolutionary than that, that if those relatively small things were the goals, they could be approached in a rather different way.
The goal really is to -- is to make a revolution all over the world. And the reason I speak about totalitarianism and why I`m interested in Camus and the philosophers of totalitarianism, theorists about totalitarianism from 50 years ago or so, is this, that I think that the radical Islamist movement is a totalitarian movement in a 20-century style, that -- my theory is this, that after World War I, a whole series of extremely revolutionary movements arose, and they arose for the purpose of overthrowing what I think of as the essentially liberal doctrines -- not liberal in the right-wing, left-wing version, but liberal in the sense of -- the liberal doctrines of -- of Western culture.
And by the liberal doctrines, I mean the notion of the separation of church and state, the notion that there should be a difference between the private and the public, the difference between the government and the society, the difference between the government and -- and economics, the notion that in one`s own mind, we can think in different -- in different categories at the same time, that in part of your mind you could be religious, and in another part of your mind, you can be scientific or rationalist. It`s the notion that -- that a society -- the liberal idea is the notion that a society based on those ideas will -- will progress. You can offer progress for -- for all mankind everywhere. This had been a large governing idea throughout the 19th century. And it wasn`t in practice everywhere, but people subscribed to this idea and had a great faith in it. There was some reason to have a faith in it.
World War I came along, and the idea came to seem preposterous because World War I was so horrible, so industrialist -- industrially murderous that -- that people who were thinking in those old terms of the liberal optimism in the 19th century were unable to conceive it -- conceive of it, unable to explain it. And as a result, in the years after the war, a series of movements arose which were rebellions against the old liberal idea. Each of those movements had the same idea, which was to overthrow liberal civilization and replace it with a civilization of a different sort, rock-like, granite, without any separation of spheres, a single sphere, permanent, unchanging, eternal, governed by a leader with a single organization or a single party and -- and like that.
LAMB:Name the -- just for examples, the leaders and the countries you`re talking about.
BERMAN: Right. The first of these movements was Lenin`s, and the movement was Bolshevism or the Communist Party, and then Lenin to Stalin. The next of them was Mussolini, who founded the fascist movement in Italy a very few years later. Franco, with the fascist movement of Spain, Hitler with the Nazi movement in Germany, the Iron Guard in Romania, the extreme right in France, and so forth, through almost every country in -- through every country in Europe and many countries around the world. And each of these movements was different from each of the others.
At the time, if anybody had said to you there`s something in common between the Bolshevism of Lenin and the Fascism of Mussolini, they would have said that`s -- that`s preposterous. Those movements are opposite. But from our perspective now, looking back on them, we should be able to see that all of those movements had a lot in common. And what they had in common was this urge to rebel against liberal civilization, the principles of liberal separation of spheres, replace that with a rock-like, granite society, the permanent, unchanging society with the single party, the single leader, and so forth.
So each of those movements had, in this respect, the same idea. They all arose in the years -- in the immediate years after World War I. They -- those movements all arose in Europe. But at the same time, the same inspiration spread to the Muslim world, and it spread into the Muslim world in -- a kind of Muslim totalitarianism arose which had all of the main principles of totalitarianism in Europe. It arose in the 1920s and `30s. It had different strands. One of those strands is the one that was finally given a theoretical shape by Said Qutb in his commentary on the Quran. Another of those strands is the one that finally evolved into the Ba`ath Party of Saddam Hussein. But these different strands really had a lot in common.
But in any case, they had the same idea as each of the European totalitarian movements, which was to effect a revolution in the world everywhere, not just to effect a few more -- a few local reforms, not just to -- not just to make a few political demands on someone, maybe be a little rough about it, but to advance one`s cause in a reformist or small fashion, not just to get a slightly bigger slice of the pie, but instead to make a complete revolution that was going to change thoroughly the whole of mankind.
LAMB:So Lenin and Mussolini and Hitler and others all had the same goal as the Islamists do?
BERMAN: In this deepest of ways...
LAMB:In the big -- in the overall...
BERMAN: In the -- in the overall, deepest of ways, they have the same goal. In all other ways, once we leave the very deepest level, they each had different goals and -- and one opposite from the other, and they -- one fought wars with the other, and each one was different. But at the very deepest way, it was all the same.
And this deepest way was to overthrow liberal civilization, replace it with a different kind of modernity, which was -- that is to say, a different kind of modern society, benefiting from science and technological advance but which, unlike liberal society, was going to be solid, without any internal divisions, without any feelings of skepticism or doubt, a society that would be absolutely perfect, without cracks or contradictions, a society therefore that would last forever, or as the Nazis would say, a thousand years.
LAMB:Qutb, again, lived what -- how many years, 60...
BERMAN: He was hanged at age 61.
LAMB:And when he wrote his 30 volumes, when did he finish them?
BERMAN: Well, he was writing these books through the 1950s and `60s.
LAMB:Who read them?
BERMAN: Well, at the time, he had a small following in Egypt, and this following of his eventually evolved into the factions that assassinated Sadat and eventually went into al Qaeda, but...
LAMB:Would you say that Zawahiri is a follower of Qutb?
BERMAN: Yes. Yes.
LAMB:The Egyptian who is the No. 2...
LAMB:... to Usama bin Laden?
BERMAN: Yes. Yes.
LAMB:Would you say that Usama bin Laden is a follower of Qutb?
BERMAN: Yes. I mean, from -- from Qutb to bin Laden, there`s a fairly direct connection, which is that Qutb`s brother, after the terrible repression of the Muslim Brotherhood by Nasser, many of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and the intellectuals in it fled Egypt, and many of them were welcomed into Saudi Arabia. They were welcomed into Saudi Arabia because Egypt has always been a great intellectual capital, a center of the Arab world, the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia has not been. Saudi Arabia has always claimed to be the spiritual leader of -- or the Wahhabi sect that`s claimed to be the spiritual leader of the Muslim world. But they haven`t produced the great intellectuals.
So when the fundamentalist intellectuals in Egypt were persecuted by Nasser, the Saudis were happy to welcome them to Saudi Arabia. Qutb`s brother, Mohammed Qutb, was one of the people who fled Egypt. He became a professor of Islamic studies in Saudi Arabia, and one of his students, in fact, was Usama bin Laden. So there`s a fairly direct connection that way. And that`s not the only connection, but...
LAMB:I hate to bring it down to a lower level, but...
BERMAN: Let`s do that.
LAMB:No, I want to get to again a question I asked earlier. All right, let`s go to Usama bin Laden. If he were to tell you the four or five things -- you say it`s not about just moving troops out of Saudi Arabia and getting the settlers out of the West Bank. So what is it? If they want this to be a worldwide effort, I get back to my question, what could stop the terrorists? Or is there anything that can stop these terrorists?
PAUL BERMAN, AUTHOR "TERROR AND LIBERALISM": Well, I think that there`s no concession that can...
LAMB:You can`t bargain.
BERMAN: There`s no bargaining. The purpose of these terrorist acts is not to bargain with us. This is not like some labor union engaged in a struggle with the boss and somehow the boss`s yacht gets burned down and -- it`s an act of terror, but everybody understands that it was meant to force a deal.
LAMB:You can`t buy them off?
BERMAN: It`s not like that. It`s -- it`s -- the goal is to overthrow the whole of liberal or secular civilization and create a new world, a completely new world. So the only thing that`s going to defeat them is -- really, the only thing that`s going to defeat them is to persuade them to abandon their ideas. Really, the only thing that will defeat them is to win a war of -- win a war of ideas.
BERMAN: Well, I...
LAMB:I mean, let me again go to the basics here. If you`re an Islamist or a radical Islamist and you believe in the Quran, how do you live your life and how do you want everybody else to live? I mean, this simple thing of -- are women always veiled?
BERMAN: Well, yes. I mean, the doctrine of -- the philosophy behind this doctrine is -- let me go back to all the other totalitarian movements in order to make the comparison. All of those movements had a utopian goal, and the utopian goal consisted of leaping into the distant past and at the same time leaping into the modern future. Thus Lenin and the Bolsheviks wanted to go back to what Marx considered to be the primitive communism of, you know, the barbarian age, or the primitive communism of the Russian peasants, but this primitive communism in the Bolshevik version was also and especially going to be a leap into the future, into a scientific age, into a futuristic sci-fi future, a perfect society.
Mussolini marched on Rome in 1922 for the purpose of re-creating, resurrecting the Roman Empire, the days of glory of the Italian people. So he was going to recreate the Roman Empire, his followers were arranged in the legions. There were centurions. They were resurrecting the Roman Empire. But their Roman Empire was going to be modern, expressed by the kind of modern architecture that Mussolini went around building, which was exactly like a modern architecture that Stalin went around building.
So in both cases, it was going to be a leap into the ancient past, which was also going to be a leap into the modern future.
LAMB:Any religious base in any of this -- Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin?
BERMAN: The real religious -- the best example of a religious-based fascist movement was Franco`s. Franco, in Spain. Franco`s idea was that he wanted to return to the Middle Ages of Spain, when the Catholics of Spain were engaged in a crusade against the Muslims, and against the Jews, and so he wanted -- his followers were the warriors of Christ the King, and his goal was to resurrect what he imagined to be, what he fantasized to be the perfect Catholicism, the perfect Catholic society, of medieval Spain.
And yet in his version, of course, this was also going to be modern and scientific and advanced and so forth. So he had a religious vision of his ideas and his goal, which was going to be a perfect Catholicism. His was the most religiously oriented of the European totalitarian movements.
The others, in the case of Lenin, it was anti-religious, in the case of the Nazis, they invented their own religion, which was, you know, Nordic pagan.
LAMB:Tell me if I`m wrong. Is it that Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, Franco, in the end wasn`t it all about their personal power? And hasn`t this been discovered in years gone by, the torture, the terror and all that stuff, it`s all about their person power, so you scrape it away and were they ever really interested in their publics? And is this group interested at all in their publics?
BERMAN: I don`t think that with those movements, it was about their personal power. There`s a difference between -- there are dictatorships and dictatorships, that not every dictator is a Manuel Noriega. Manuel Noriega, as I interpret him, was interested in his personal power, in his own wealth and prerogatives, and the pleasant life he was leading as the dictator of Panama, and there are a lot of dictators like that.
The totalitarian movements have always been different, which is that they have always been based on true believers, belief in the whole ideological system. The notion of this revolutionary leap into the future society that`s also going to be a leap into the past, the hatred for liberal civilization -- all of this has always been sincere.
And at some level, each of the totalitarian leaders has -- genuinely wanted to do good. I say, at some level. Because at a different level, at a deeper level -- yes, each of this movements has always wanted to do bad, has wanted to do bad, has not just stumbled into doing bad by mistake. And for this reason, each of these movements has always been based on some notion of transgression of moral, of moral values, of rebellion against the notion of morality and the notion of a decent society.
That`s why each one of these movements has established its strength by being ruthless for the sake of being ruthless, of killing people en mass, for the sake of killing people en mass. Shoot more professors, was one of Lenin`s earliest orders. That -- with Hitler the idea was always to kill millions and millions of people. Stalin too, wanted to kill, and did, killed millions and millions of people, not to do them good, but to kill them.
And at a deeper level, these movements have always existed in levels. At a first level, they are for doing good. They are for creating this perfect society that could inspire the idealistic support of somebody who has subscribed to the ideals of that perfect society, however it might be described.
But at a deeper level, the attraction of these movements has always been a kind of a cult of death. And everywhere (ph) one of these movements has engaged in a cult of death, some more than others. And -- so, when you say, aren`t these leaders finally each engaged in trying to get their own power, aren`t these movements engaged in -- interested in increasing the power and privileges of the leader, of the little top -- the little group at the top.
And the answer is finally, no. That most of these movements, or many of these movements have been led by people who were perfectly willing to die for the movement. In fact, might want to die. Because the notion of suicide is also inherent in these movements. Hitler, and his top -- and his top men at the end, killed themselves, and they always made it clear that suicide was going to be their end. The Hitler Youth were devoted to the notion of suicide, that Stalin, in the `30s, was murdering communists at a huger rate than anyone else has murdered communists. Nobody has murdered more members of the Communist Party than the Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Stalin, so to join the Communist Party in the age of Stalin and to try to rise in it and become a leader under Stalin was to get ever closer to one`s own death.
LAMB:Well, go then to Saddam Hussein. What`s -- how does he fit into this?
BERMAN: Well, I think Saddam Hussein is a pretty classic figure in all this, that Saddam Hussein is or was -- and we`re speaking at a time when it`s not yet clear whether he`s dead or alive -- Saddam Hussein is a figure who precisely has been unable to negotiate or work his way out of the difficult jam that he was in for many years, was unable to do that precisely because there is, I think there always was in his regime, an aspect of true belief in the ideals of the Baath socialist -- of the Arab Baath Socialist Party, which was to create another version of the same totalitarian revolution, and I think there was always -- always a cult of death, an extreme cult of cruelty, and an acceptance that death might be the fate of the leaders and members.
LAMB:But we`ve seen the palaces, we saw the billion dollars taken away, all for himself, all for his family.
LAMB:And there is another -- you see the princes -- 5,000 princes in Saudi Arabia and all of that. Is that different?
BERMAN: Well, the Saudi Arabian thing is a little different, and that so...
LAMB:All about themselves?
BERMAN: Let`s leave -- let`s leave them aside for a second. In the case of Saddam Hussein, the idea than in the meanwhile the leader will have privileges, that`s not at all contradictory to this larger idea, because each of these movements has always been based around a cult of a leader, and a leader has always stood forward as a genius, as a divine figure, as a more than human figure, and has always, each of these leaders has led his life as a more than divine figure and has surrounded himself with the greatest luxury and pomp.
LAMB:All right. Let`s go back to the next step in the process. All right, you know, Saddam Hussein`s regime falls. And before you know it, the Sunnis are all rallying around the ayatollah, the leader, the imam, whatever. What does that leader want now? And we go back to your thesis in your book. If they want worldwide what, Shariat?
BERMAN: I think, you are talking about the Shia and the kind of movement that`s come to power, and that`s been in power for many years in Iran, next door, and I would say that yes, I haven`t been able to explain what Qutb`s final goal is, and this is how to answer your question. That Qutb, that each of these totalitarian movements in Europe wanted to leap into the past and leap into the future.
The Islamist movement, of which Qutb was the great philosopher, wanted to do the same. They wanted to leap into the remote past, but where Mussolini wanted to resurrect the Roman Empire, these people wanted to resurrect the ancient Caliphate, the Muslim Caliphate of the seventh century, from the days after the prophet Mohammed, from the days when the Arabs, having accepted Islam, were conquering the world.
So they look back on the Caliphate of the seventh century as the golden age, which they were going to resurrect, and the golden age meant Shariat, or Quranic law, the strictest version of Quranic law, as you see it in the Quran, a strict reading of all the rules and regulations, laws and punishments and mode of life as described and prescribed in the Quran.
LAMB:Let me just interrupt to read what you`ve written on page 64. What`s the -- what`s the Shurah (ph), or surah?
BERMAN: Those are the chapters of the Quran.
LAMB:All right. And I just want -- because it helps if people haven`t followed this.
LAMB:The surahs lead him to discuss - we are talking about Qutb -- dietary regulations, the proper direction to pray, the nature of prayer, the rules of divorce, the question of when a man may suggest marriage to a widow, four months and 10 days after the death of her husband, unless she is pregnant, in which case after delivery. Is that a manmade law or did that come from God to Mohammed?
BERMAN: These are Quranic laws and they`re part of the Quranic revelation.
LAMB:The rules concerning a Muslim who wishes to marry a Christian or a Jew, very complicated, you say. The obligations of charity, the punishment for crimes and for breaking one`s word, the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, the prohibition on liquor and intoxicants, the proper clothing to wear, the rules on usury and money lending, and a thousand other things. Now, Qutb, I assume, wrote about all that.
BERMAN: Right, and this is part of his expositional commentary on the Quran, so he`s going through the surahs, the chapters of the Quran, some of which are tiny and some of which are very long, and they tell stories and they recount the history of Mohammed, and they do a lot of different things, and then he draws from this the specific laws of Shariat, which are either directly from the Quran or are from the sacred commentaries on the Quran.
And his idea, his notion of the utopian society that his radical movement wants to create, is to resurrect the Caliphate of the seventh century, when, as he imagined, these laws, these precise regulations regarding every aspect of life, were in effect.
But at the same time, it`s important to remember that in this movement, this idea of resurrecting the seventh century was also, and is also, is pictured also as a leap into the future, as a modern movement, that sometimes people mistakenly imagine that the Islamist radicals merely want to return to the seventh century, and then it`s a kind of a medieval movement, but it`s not really a medieval movement.
It`s a movement that wants to be in the seventh century, also in the modern age at the same time, and you can see an example of that in that first hair-raising video of bin Laden after the September 11 attacks, where he sat with Zawahiri and other people on a rock in Afghanistan, and dressed in robes and looking like they were out of the Middle Ages, and yet with the tape recorders and microphones right there as part of the setup without any effort to disguise it, and the whole thing presented as a video, not as an ancient text written on parchment but as a video.
So it was an evocation of something highly modern, completely up to date, which at the same time was ancient and of the seventh century.
LAMB:Let me ask you, though, back to again -- I hate to keep, you know, trying to get to how do you negotiate out of this, and maybe you can`t negotiate out of it, but what is -- what are these suicide bombers doing? What motivates somebody to get on one of these airplanes and die for this cause? What are they after?
LAMB:And what`s modern about this? What`s -- how are they moving into the future?
BERMAN: Yes. Well, I mean, what`s motivating them is their revolutionary ideal of creating this new society, which is going to be the seventh century Caliphate in a modern version.
LAMB:Do they want us gone?
BERMAN: They want us gone or -- either gone or converted to their vision, and that`s the motivation, so it`s a revolutionary motivation.
That`s at one level, but at another level and at a deeper level, their motivation is to die and to kill as many people as possible, and this ought to be recognizable to us because what was Hitler`s motivation, or what was Stalin`s motivation in starving to death the peasants of the Ukraine in the 1930s? Did the motivation behind these different campaigns, which ought to be familiar to us by now, is on one hand to do good, however good is described, and on the other hand to pursue a cult of death, and that`s what these -- that`s what these suicide bombers are about, or suicide terrorists are about.
LAMB:What is your suspicion as to why there is so much hatred over these years about Jewish people, when there are only, what, 14, 15 million Jews in the world, you`ve got over 200 million Arabs in the world. There are six million of those 14 or 15 million in this country, so what is it? Where does that hatred come from? What`s your sense?
BERMAN: I mean, this is one of the great mysteries, but each one of the totalitarian movements has obsessed about the Jews. The Bolsheviks didn`t begin that way, but Stalin by the end of his life was obsessing about the Jews and was planning a gigantic massacre. Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, they were all obsessed about the Jews, likewise the Baathists and the radical Islamists, and I think the -- a basic reason -- I think that there are two reasons.
And the basic reason is that although some of these movements are secular or even atheist, I think at a deep level, all these movements come out of a religious vision, and this religious vision has its deepest origin in Christianity and in the Christian gospels themselves, you see the hatred of Judaism, and it`s an early competition between Christianity and Judaism which took the form of a hatred of Judaism, and the particular form in which this emerges into modern totalitarianism is through what you can see in the "Book of the Revelation" of Saint John the Divine, the weirdest and strangest, most apocalyptic of sacred texts, and there you have a picture of a people of God struggling against the synagogue of Satan, of inner pollutants in Babylon and external foes, and all this is just inextricably linked with a hatred of the Jews.
LAMB:But if you went into a mosque over on the Middle East and tapped some guy on the shoulder, why do you hate the Jews, what would he tell you? I mean, would it be all because the imam up there had told him to hate the Jews, or do they intellectually think about this?
BERMAN: There is a lot of intellectual thought about this. I mean, in the case of the Muslim movements, obviously there`s a real irritant in the existence of Israel and some of the Israeli policies, that there are real grievances, which can`t be ignored or dismissed.
But the real grievance -- and with the Israelis sometimes at fault and sometimes not at fault, but the real grievances are not -- the grievances are not really the source of this movement, and the Islamist movement, with its hatred of the Jews, began before there was an Israel. So it predates Israel, predates the very existence of Israel, and it certainly -- and Qutb himself was hanged in 1966, so before the 1967 war, before the Israelis controlled the West Bank or Gaza or anything like that.
So the hatred for the Jews in their movement, as in all the movements, comes from on one hand this religious background, and here the Quran is almost weirdly parallel to the gospels in that, there is -- the Quran describes an early struggle between Mohammed and the Jews of Medina, in which -- as Mohammed is trying to found Islam and the Islamic state, and the Jews of Medina are described in the most diabolical fashion.
So on one hand, hatred of the Jews comes out of that, out of an ancient religious hatreds. On the other hand, in each of these cases hatred of the Jews comes from a notion of the Jews as a modernizing force, as a modernizing group who haven`t been able to -- who haven`t assimilated into the larger traditional religious culture and who have lived somewhat apart or maintained their own separate cultural identity and therefore inherently can`t avoid introducing into society a notion that there`s going to be more than one point of view, that there are going to be arguments about some things, and then finally the Jews in modern times have played a modernizing role, have been pioneers in different kinds of thought, and so this also has aroused a -- has aroused a great hatred.
LAMB:So where do you come down on George Bush`s Middle Eastern military move?
BERMAN: George Bush`s...
LAMB:I mean, as a liberal.
LAMB:I can see you smiling, but as a liberal, where were you when United States attacked Iraq?
BERMAN: Well, I don`t think the United States attacked Iraq. The United States...
LAMB:Well, whatever they, you know.
BERMAN: The United States attacked Saddam...
BERMAN: ... and I like to think that the United States liberated Iraq. I supported that. I think that Bush did the right thing in invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban, and I think he did the right thing in invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam. I think that....
LAMB:Is it (ph) hard to say? Was it hard -- I assume you know other liberals that feel the same way you do.
BERMAN: Well, I know a few, but it`s not the conventional position among liberals or on left.
LAMB:But a lot of writers were on your side, a lot of liberal writers.
BERMAN: Some, some, some, yes.
LAMB:Friedman , David Masis (ph) ...
BERMAN: Yeah. Some.
LAMB:... and Richard Cohen (ph).
BERMAN: I have thought from a military point of view all that was correct. However, in all other ways, apart from the military, I think that Bush has done a very bad job of it, and this is a really serious problem, that in Afghanistan, it was militarily well done and the tremendous fears that many people had of masses and masses of Afghans being killed and a brutal American military operation, this didn`t happen. Many people were killed but not anywhere as many as was feared.
Militarily it was done well, but the job of reconstructing Afghan society along the lines of something that can eventually evolve into a proper liberal democracy, this has been done quite badly -- not nearly enough money, effort, manpower has been put into that. So that`s quite bad.
In Iraq so far there`s a lot to worry about. I think that Bush bungled the explanation of the war badly. He was unable to recruit allies. He`s -- I think, diplomatically, he is the worst president we`ve ever seen, even if militarily he`s quite good.
LAMB:We`ll go back to your -- the two people you cited in your book, Camus and Qutb. What would -- who was Camus? When did he live?
BERMAN: Camus was born in, I forget, 1912 or 1913, somewhere around there.
LAMB:When did he die?
BERMAN: And he died in the -- you know, I`m not sure, in the `50s. Mid-century.
LAMB:But he was from Algeria originally, he lived in France?
LAMB:What would he say today about all this? Is there a solution to this problem?
BERMAN: Well, I think -- I think that -- you know, I don`t know what he would say.
LAMB:I mean based on your analysis.
BERMAN: I think that what he offers is a notion of terrorism and totalitarianism as being pretty much the same thing, as the same cult of death that I`ve been talking about in the name of a utopian ideal, and I think that he understands that from reading Camus, you can get a pretty good idea that these are serious intellectual movements and serious ideas, even if they`re a little deranged or a lot deranged, and the proper way to deal with them or a crucial way to deal with them is at the plane of ideas, and this is one of the things we`ve done so badly, that the only way to defeat these movements, as I say finally, is intellectually.
People have to be persuaded to abandon these ideas in favor of other ideas, and sometimes it`s the case that military action is needed. And I think that military action in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq was a good idea. But military action is not an end in itself, and can`t even accomplish very much if the people -- if masses of people and millions and millions of people end up still clinging to the same ideas that they clung to originally.
LAMB:We`re about out of time. I just want to -- a couple quick things. By the way, do you have a family? Children, or...
BERMAN: My personal life is a matter for a whole other show. I don`t have children, no.
LAMB:This book, "Terror and Liberalism," it`s got a white cover, nothing on it, your picture is not on it. Any reason for the simplicity?
BERMAN: Well, the simplicity was the inspiration of the editor, Lane Mason (ph), at Norton, the publishing house, and I think it expresses the tone of the book, really. I mean, it`s a serious book, it`s -- I hope it`s not an hysterical book. It`s not -- a lot of books scream at you from the bookstore. I think my book, the idea is not to scream at you, but just to present it starkly and simply.
LAMB:And you said "The New York Times" magazine ran the Qutb piece in the first place. What time period did they run that?
BERMAN: That ran in March.
LAMB:And this book was finished when?
BERMAN: The book was finished in December. I wrote the book basically in five months, in the summer and fall of 2002.
LAMB:We`re out of time. Here is what the cover looks like. Our guest has been Paul Berman, and the name of the book, "Terror and Liberalism." Thank you very much.
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