Imperialism: OK for Some

God save us from the “experts” on “Islam.” In the latest example of the kind of spurious scholarship that is being widely distributed in Washington, Edward Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, announces that much of what people know about Islam “happens to be untrue,” and so he has taken it upon himself to correct them, by striking down what he considers to be myths about tolerance in Islam. Luttwak quotes the usual pseudo-research into the topic, so it’s hardly worth anyone’s time, but what strikes me with this latest Islamophobic rant (published in The Sun) is that it ends with a ringing endorsement of King Leopold.

Even a suicide bomber who kills only innocent babies can rightly claim that insofar as he contributes to the ultimate victory of Islam, he will ultimately save many more babies from eternal suffering, giving them paradise instead, complete with virginal black-eyed beauties, if they are males. It is enough to make one nostalgic for the imperialist freebooters of the West, down to King Leopold I of Belgium: They only wanted loot, not to force salvation on their victims.

Excuse me? To call King Leopold a “freebooter” is obscene. Never mind the rubber and ivory he stole from the Congo. The man killed, depending on the source, between 5 and 15 million people and is responsible for the worst genocide in recent human history. As for the contention that he did all of this without the cover of wanting to save the natives, it’s quite simply ignorant. Leopold’s efforts were clearly part of the mission civilisatrice, which deemed that imperialism was acceptable so long as the natives were civilised, by which it was meant they would be Christianized. And by the way, Luttwak: It’s King Leopold II, not Leopold I.

Last week, a professor at the University of Illinois was wondering whether he should stop teaching Heart of Darkness. I would suggest he hold special classes for someone like Luttwak.

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