Thursday, October 13, 2005

Screwtape's Letter...


Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently released the translated text of a 13 page letter between two senior al Qa'ida leaders - Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - obtained during counterterrorism operations in Iraq. As the DNI explains, the lengthy document provides a comprehensive view of al Qa'ida's strategy in Iraq and globally. Yet, it might well have read this way...

My Dear Wormwood,

I note what you say about guiding our patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïf? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning...
The DNI links to the text of the actual letter, here.

John Hinderaker at Powerline posts a good analysis of the actual contents of this Screwtape's letter to his Al Qa'ida associate in Iraq for those reluctant to, themselves, dredge the bethic layer of human existence.

Fascinatingly enough, the letter's contents don't read that much different than C.S. Lewis' classic depiction of correspondence between a Senior and Junior Demon. For instance, Zawahiri like Screwtape, comprehends the significance of the media as being instrumental to their ends,

I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma.

Screwtape completes the thought,

But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" of "false", but as "academic" or "practical", "outworn" or "contemporary", "conventional" or "ruthless". Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about...
In his novel, the Screwtape Letters, Lewis assembles a collection of letters from the Under Secretary of the Lowerarchy of Hell to his nephew Wormwood; an incompetent and very junior devil. Screwtape's advice to Wormwood comes in the form of lectures on how to secure the ultimate damnation of a humanity...

Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all he pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The "Life Force", the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work—the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls "Forces" while denying the existence of "spirits"—then the end of the war will be in sight. But in the meantime we must obey our orders. I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that "devils" are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you. ( Editorial correction )
Zawahiri puts it this way...

One of the most important factors of success is that you don't let your eyes lose sight of the target, and that it should stand before you always. otherwise you deviate from the general line through a policy of reaction. And this is a lifetime's experience, and I will not conceal from you the fact taht we suffered a lot through following this policy of reaction, then we suffered a lot another time because we tried to return to the original line.
Clearly in both instances, the mentor is conveying a desire to control the impression of the conflict. Screwtape warns of the pitfalls that might undermine the intentions...

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it "real life" and don't let him ask what he means by "real".

Zawahiri is similarly concerned about method and offers this advice to his associate...

Among the things which the feelings of [ the] populace who love and support you will never find palatable - also - are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. you shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the shaykh of the slaughteres, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance...
Zawahiri recognizes the necessity of popular support as a decisive factor between victory and defeat...

In the absense of this popular support, [the] movement would be crushed in the shadows, far from the masses who are distracted or fearful, and the struggle between the Jihadist elite and the arrogant authorities would be confined to prison dungeons far from the public and the light of day. This is precisely what the secular, apostate forces that are controlling our countries are striving for.

Screwtape sees the key to this support as lying in the ability to deceive... must fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever
they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of
preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him
towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce
feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for
charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for
themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to
pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they
are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to
estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired
feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind
depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.
And he is careful to manifest all aspects of the effort toward reaching the ultimate goal regardless of obstacles....

The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth. While they are young we find them always shooting off at a tangent. Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry—the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon—are always blowing our whole structure away. They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or "science" or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness is a work of time—assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience.
We see that it is a goal shared by Zawahiri,

[They] must not have their mission end with the expulsion of [the Enemy] from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal. We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us. Instead, their ongoing mission is to establish [Our] state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection.
C.S. Lewis imagined it, because he knew it. And it is important now, that humanity struggle to recognize the wisdom of allegory in the lesson he recorded for Man. Whether celebrated by demons or humans, evil clearly exists among men today, seeking to devour humanity one way or another.

In the name of Lucifer?... or other devils!

Over at OKIE on the LAM, Db also has a good summary of Screwtape's letter, via Citizen Smash and Laer Pierce at Cheat Seeking Missiles, simplifying the correspondence down into its four primary goals. He also makes note of a point that I found curious in reading as well, but failed to mention before. It begs the question? Can Western Union wire funds to Hell? Likely not, but in the end of Lewis' version, Screwtape devours his underling. That being the case, Zarqawi might want to find a way to get him the cash.

Belmont Club and Austin Bay also have a very good analyses of Screwtape's letter, both with extensive and thoughtful commentary discussions.

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