As the profile of political Islam has risen under the impress of 'al Qaeda', a modish concern of pro-war intellectuals has been the chastisement of religion, and especially Islam, as a source of reaction and irrationalism. Similarly, the gurus of spiritualism, New Age mysticism, Western Buddhism and 'postmodernism' have been berated as agents of the Counter-Enlightenment. Predictably, anti-imperialism has been incriminated by association with the enemies of progress. For figures such as Christopher Hitchens, the 'war on terror' is an urgent contest between the forces of secular humanism and Enlightenment, and those of medieval terror. To oppose it is to give succor to an implacable enemy. Sadly, as Adorno and Horkheimer observed at an incomparably graver moment, Enlightenment of this kind 'radiates disaster triumphant'. Nowhere has the brochure for humanist imperialism less resembled the practice than at the frontiers of the 'war on terror', whose bloody outcomes include violence of genocidal proportions in Iraq, and whose motifs include the resurrection of modes of torture abandoned by the enlightened despots of the eighteenth century, the mercenary armies of nineteenth-century imperialism, the ethnic cleansing and aerial bombardment of the twentieth century, and an unprecedented complex of global gulags. 'Progress' of this kind belongs in the annals of discredited ideas, along with Manifest Destiny, the civilizing mission, Lebensraum and the 'master race'. It happens to share its origins with all of these.