By Hugo J. Byrne

Many years ago, when the cold war was in its climax, someone in our presence was asked his opinion on the worst danger humanity would be facing in the near future. The answer came fast, like coming from somebody who knew the issue intimately. What that individual said surprised everyone participating in the discussion, including yours truly: "Without any doubt, by the end of this century or the beginning of the next, we will be forced into a most difficult war by one or more totalitarian theocratic Islamic states. The very survival of western civilization may depend on the outcome of that war."

That individual, a sort of walking encyclopedia, whose opinions were profoundly respected by those who knew him, shocked everybody present while failing to impress them. We were witnessing the final years of the seventies, when the national attention -and that of the Cuban Americans in particular- was focusing on more pressing issues. Those issues were the two-digit inflation in the U.S., the arms race with the Soviet Union and the aggressive Marxist subversion in the Western Hemisphere (with the West appearing to be loosing both). Also the diplomatic opening of the Carter administration towards Castro (suddenly stopped by the latter with the dramatic Mariel boatlift).

War with totalitarian Moslem states? It sounded like just a bad dream, unless the pro Israel foreign policies in Washington would get totally out of control, to the extreme of blurring our national interest. Such war looked like a remote possibility, especially after the Carter's brokered agreements between Egypt and Israel.

Then right at the end of that decade, the fanatically anti-American Iranian Islamic revolution surprised the Carter administration and anybody else not familiar with the messianic political forces so active in that part of the world. Next we experienced "difficulties" with Muhammar el Gadaffi in the Golf of Sidra, the skies over Scotland and elsewhere. Finally, we witnessed the internationalization of the unhappy permanent state of war between Israel and the PLO, with a very bloody sequel in Lebanon.

Over all, the most dramatic political change at the end of the XX Century, rivaling that of the fall of the Soviet empire, was the shift of the Marxist mystique of the international fabric of terrorism towards one inspired by fanatic "fundamentalist" Islam. Such a shift appeared to be a natural process, recognizing that Marxism and "fundamental" Moslem faith share identical hatred towards individual freedom, and any form of a real market economy under a secular state. The United States was, naturaly, the main object of that hatred.

The international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, better known as "Carlos" or "The Jackal", who lives today in a comfortable Parisian cell courtesy of the French taxpayers, personifies that historic shift. Pampered son of a wealthy founder of Venezuela's Communist Party, Ramírez initiated his bloody terrorist career seeking socialism and "world revolution." But it was only after he started to perform his dark craft under the banners of fanatical Islam that his terror star really shone. His notoriety was never greater than during his kidnapping of the OPEC ministers in Vienna, in December of 1973.

It should be no surprise that the seeds of the movement initially called "Arab nationalism", first sprouted in North Africa, sweeping through Egypt, Morocco and Algeria, for those nations suffered legitimate grievances under European colonialism, during part of the nineteen century and most of the twentieth. Later on, the same popular wave developed into an Islamic religious fanaticism that exploded in a non-Arab country: The Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini and the "revolutionary guards."

The bloody ten years war between Iraq and Iran was in essence a fight for the leadership of that anti-Western wave, not unlike a Mafia struggle. The supposedly secular Baath party of Sadam Hussein was just a cover for the personal ambitions of a totalitarian dictator, ready at any time to appeal to Islamic "fundamentalism" in his failed personal quest for absolute dominance of the oil rich Persian Gulf region.

The predictions of a humble exiled Cuban, keenly abreast of the probabilities and dangers of the future a quarter of a century ago became reality with the first Gulf war in the early nineties. The hostilities renewed in 2003 and that are still continuing with a sequel of terror bombings, kidnappings and sabotage, are nothing but a continuation of the conflict started by Sadam Hussein with the invasion of Kuwait.

The losers of 1991, after accepting the dictate of the victors, repeatedly refused to comply with the terms of the armistice. Sadam's henchmen signed those terms when their only alternative was that of the white flag.

This predicted, bloody and unavoidable conflict is bound to last considerably longer than many anticipated and probably will extend to other areas of the Islamic world before it ends. Our victory is not assured. There is no guarantee of the final outcome. Would we have the necessary character, determination and patience to prevail? Do we have what it takes to stay the course?

Without an affirmative answer to those questions the future for human dignity is very uncertain.


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