Commentary Magazine


Topic: Daniel Pearl

Why the Resurgence of Beheading in Islam?

The SITE Intelligence Group, a subscription service which provides the best coverage of jihadi chat forums and media, has now posted the video of ISIS beheading captive American journalist Steven Sotloff, whom ISIS had threatened to execute in the wake of its beheading of James Foley. To my untrained eye, it’s unclear whether Sotloff had been executed immediately following Foley, with the video only released now, or whether it is a fresh video. That said, the rash of beheadings that began with the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 and continued through the Iraq war, certainly renews focus on the practice and radical Islamism.

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The SITE Intelligence Group, a subscription service which provides the best coverage of jihadi chat forums and media, has now posted the video of ISIS beheading captive American journalist Steven Sotloff, whom ISIS had threatened to execute in the wake of its beheading of James Foley. To my untrained eye, it’s unclear whether Sotloff had been executed immediately following Foley, with the video only released now, or whether it is a fresh video. That said, the rash of beheadings that began with the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 and continued through the Iraq war, certainly renews focus on the practice and radical Islamism.

Almost a decade ago, while I was editing the Middle East Quarterly, I published an insightful article by Timothy Furnish entitled, “Beheading in the Name of Islam.” While some more radical Islamic advocacy organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) bend over backwards to obfuscate the links between such acts of violence and religion, the truth lies in the interpretation of religious texts espoused by more radical elements.

Furnish explains, “Sura (chapter) 47 contains the ayah (verse): ‘When you encounter the unbelievers on the battlefield, strike off their heads until you have crushed them completely; then bind the prisoners tightly.’” He then explains the history of the exegesis:

The famous Iranian historian and Qur’an commentator Muhammad b. Jarir at-Tabari (d. 923 C.E.) wrote that “striking at the necks” is simply God’s sanction of ferocious opposition to non-Muslims. Mahmud b. Umar az-Zamakhshari (d. 1143 C.E.), in a major commentary studied for centuries by Sunni religious scholars, suggested that any prescription to “strike at the necks” commands to avoid striking elsewhere so as to confirm death and not simply wound…

Literalism with regard to the interpretation of this passage was re-introduced in relatively recent times:

In his Saudi-distributed translation of the Qur’an, ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali (d. 1953) wrote that the injunction to “smite at their necks,” should be taken both literally and figuratively. “You cannot wage war with kid gloves,” Yusuf ‘Ali argued… Perhaps the most influential modern recapitulation of this passage was provided by the influential Pakistani scholar and leading Islamist thinker S. Abul A’ la Mawdudi (d. 1979), who argued that the sura provided the first Qur’anic prescriptions on the laws of war. Mawdudi argued, “Under no circumstances should the Muslim lose sight of this aim and start taking the enemy soldiers as captives. Captives should be taken after the enemy has been completely crushed.”

What is striking to me with regard to the evolution of interpretation is how it has hardened with time. For that, the world has no one to blame but Saudi Arabia which has, for decades, done everything possible to distribute the Yusuf ‘Ali interpretation of the Koran which, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s generous subsidies, remains perhaps the most widely-available version of the Koran not only in the English-speaking world, but across the Sunni world as well.

Bernard Lewis, the greatest living historian of the Middle East, once made the following analogy:

The Wahhabi branch of Islam is very fanatical, to the extent of being totally intolerant, very oppressive of women, and so on. Two things happened in the 20th century that gave Wahhabis enormous importance. One of them was that sheikhs of the House of Saud, who were Wahhabis, and their followers obtained control of the holy places of Islam — Mecca and Medina — which gave them enormous prestige in the Muslim world. And second, probably more important, they controlled the oil wells and the immense resources those gave them. Imagine that the Ku Klux Klan gets total control of the state of Texas. And the Ku Klux Klan has at its disposal all the oil rigs in Texas. And they use this money to set up a well-endowed network of colleges and schools throughout Christendom, peddling their peculiar brand of Christianity. You would then have an approximate equivalent of what has happened in the modern Muslim world.

What we are seeing now is not the natural evolution of Islam, but rather the result of decades of Saudi-fueled hatred. Many Saudi officials may have recognized that their financing of radical Islam has gone too far and may seek a more productive role—especially vis-à-vis unrepentant Qatar—but it is important to recognize that interpretations have changed over time to allow the murders within ISIS to justify their cruelty and crimes in Islam.

The question which both Muslims and non-Muslims must then answer is: How can decades of well-funded radicalism be undone? It’s not going to happen with Oval Office pronouncements, art therapy, or snake-oil de-radicalization programs. It will happen with a concerted, decades-long, well-financed operation to change hearts and minds. That investment, alas, must come from within the Islamic world. Saudi Arabia has yet to put its money where it mouth is and, regardless, no country other than perhaps Morocco appears ready to give the promotion of moderation beyond its borders a serious try.

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“I Am Jewish” — Remembering Daniel Pearl

Ten years ago this week, the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. Nine days later he was murdered–beheaded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Before being killed, he was forced to make a statement on a video that the terrorists subsequently distributed to the press. Though he was forced to make criticisms of the United States, he died expressing pride in his identity. “My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish,” he said.

Pearl’s abduction and murder was a heinous crime that came to symbolize the barbarity at the heart of the Islamist movement. But Pearl’s final words, though spoken under duress and with the shadow of death hanging over him, are also a symbol of the spirit of a people that hate cannot extinguish.

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Ten years ago this week, the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. Nine days later he was murdered–beheaded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Before being killed, he was forced to make a statement on a video that the terrorists subsequently distributed to the press. Though he was forced to make criticisms of the United States, he died expressing pride in his identity. “My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish,” he said.

Pearl’s abduction and murder was a heinous crime that came to symbolize the barbarity at the heart of the Islamist movement. But Pearl’s final words, though spoken under duress and with the shadow of death hanging over him, are also a symbol of the spirit of a people that hate cannot extinguish.

Ten years after Pearl’s death, there are many in this country who believe the “war on terror” is something for the history books, put on a shelf and forgotten. Al-Qaeda has received severe blows. Mohammad was subsequently arrested and after much legal wrangling, will eventually face trial before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay for his role in Pearl’s death as well as the 9/11 attacks. But the terrorists are still out there and, with their allies the Taliban still holding their own in Afghanistan, hold out hope for a revival of their cause.

Even more to the point, Islamists who sympathize with Pearl’s killers and share much of their ideology–such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Palestinian group Hamas–are on the upswing. The Brotherhood controls Egypt’s new parliament with other Islamists while Hamas appears poised to expand its sway over Palestinian society from Gaza to the West Bank via a unity pact with Fatah.

The anniversary of Pearl’s abduction should remind us that those who spread hatred of the West and of the Jews are generally not satisfied with merely talking about killing Jews. These groups pose a direct threat to world peace, and the United States must not be gulled into seeing them as people with whom we can do business. For them, Daniel Pearl’s admission of his Jewish identity and his ties with the people and the land of Israel justified his death. For us, they are an expression of pride.

Daniel Pearl was an open, inquisitive and honest journalist who bore no grudges against those of other nationalities and faiths. For this as well as for his American and Jewish identities, those for whom such qualities are anathema marked him for death. But though this anniversary is a sad one, his last words must also serve as a reassurance the Islamists who murdered him will not prevail. Though an Islamist winter has followed the Arab spring, the words “I am Jewish” resonate today as the cry of a Jewish people who will not perish. May Pearl’s memory be for a blessing.

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New Evidence in Daniel Pearl Murder May Be Useless in a Trial

A new report released by the Pearl Project, based on the group’s three-and-a-half-year investigation into the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, alleges that Pakistani authorities used perjured testimony and made other legal errors during the murder trial.

It also claims to have found new forensic evidence that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed committed the actual beheading of Pearl:

Mr. Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002, and a videotape of his murder was delivered to U.S. officials in Pakistan in February 2002.

FBI agents and CIA officials used a technique called “vein-matching” to compare the killer’s hands, as seen in the video, with a photograph of Mr. Mohammed’s hands.

But a legal expert with personal knowledge of the case tells me that there are several reasons why this discovery probably won’t add any legal weight to the U.S.’s prosecution of KSM.

One reason is that the vein-matching technology the group cited may not be admissible in court. “While it may have some merit in an academic study, it’s not a technology that has been subject to court scrutiny under the rules of evidence dealing with expert testimony. So I would doubt seriously whether it would be admissible in a U.S. court,” Charles “Cully” Stimson, a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told me.

Another reason is because there’s already a staggering amount of evidence that KSM committed the murder — so the Pearl Project’s linkage is a bit superfluous.

“It’s not a whodunit. And it hasn’t been a whodunit for some time,” said Stimson, who formerly served as an adviser to the Secretary of Defense on detainee issues.

In addition to the evidence that’s already been publicized — such as KSM’s confession — Stimson says that “there’s other evidence that will come to life that has been in the government for some time now that will further link him to that gruesome murder.”

“For those of us who have been involved in detaining operations with these high-value detainees, we’ve known for a long time that KSM was the throat-cutter.”

But that, of course, does not diminish the great work the Pearl Project has done in publicizing this case. After all, it’s certainly preferable to have too much evidence against vile killers like KSM rather than too little.

The Pearl Project’s full report can be found here.

A new report released by the Pearl Project, based on the group’s three-and-a-half-year investigation into the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, alleges that Pakistani authorities used perjured testimony and made other legal errors during the murder trial.

It also claims to have found new forensic evidence that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed committed the actual beheading of Pearl:

Mr. Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002, and a videotape of his murder was delivered to U.S. officials in Pakistan in February 2002.

FBI agents and CIA officials used a technique called “vein-matching” to compare the killer’s hands, as seen in the video, with a photograph of Mr. Mohammed’s hands.

But a legal expert with personal knowledge of the case tells me that there are several reasons why this discovery probably won’t add any legal weight to the U.S.’s prosecution of KSM.

One reason is that the vein-matching technology the group cited may not be admissible in court. “While it may have some merit in an academic study, it’s not a technology that has been subject to court scrutiny under the rules of evidence dealing with expert testimony. So I would doubt seriously whether it would be admissible in a U.S. court,” Charles “Cully” Stimson, a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told me.

Another reason is because there’s already a staggering amount of evidence that KSM committed the murder — so the Pearl Project’s linkage is a bit superfluous.

“It’s not a whodunit. And it hasn’t been a whodunit for some time,” said Stimson, who formerly served as an adviser to the Secretary of Defense on detainee issues.

In addition to the evidence that’s already been publicized — such as KSM’s confession — Stimson says that “there’s other evidence that will come to life that has been in the government for some time now that will further link him to that gruesome murder.”

“For those of us who have been involved in detaining operations with these high-value detainees, we’ve known for a long time that KSM was the throat-cutter.”

But that, of course, does not diminish the great work the Pearl Project has done in publicizing this case. After all, it’s certainly preferable to have too much evidence against vile killers like KSM rather than too little.

The Pearl Project’s full report can be found here.

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Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric. Read More

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric.

Kinsley is right when he decries hateful rhetoric. But he is not above taking comments out of context to back up his point. For instance, he claims Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to one of his columns consisted of a call by the FOX News host for Kinsley’s head to be cut off. That sounds despicable. But he neglects to mention that what O’Reilly was saying was that Kinsley’s opposition to Guantanamo and other tough anti-terror measures was so obstinate and foolish that perhaps the only thing that might change his mind was for al-Qaeda terrorists to treat him the same way they did Daniel Pearl. That’s pretty harsh, but not the same thing as a call for a beheading.

The cockeyed lesson that liberals seem intent on shoving down the throats of their fellow citizens is that when conservatives talk tough about liberals, it is tantamount to incitement to murder, but that when liberals talk tough about conservatives, it’s just talk, because liberals don’t mean anyone any harm. We have heard a great deal about the way political debate in this country has been debased by violent rhetoric in recent years. But for all of the nastiness of the left about Bush and of the right about Obama, I don’t think any of that has done as much damage to the fabric of democracy as the determination the past few days by the mainstream media and its liberal elites to exploit a crime carried out by a mentally ill person to further their own narrow partisan political agenda.

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RE: Spinning for CAIR

An extremely insightful counterweight to the Washington Post’s slobbering over American Muslim leadership comes from Daniel Pearl’s father, Judea. He rejects the notion that mosque opposition is based on bigotry. “I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a ‘rightwing’ smear campaign against one imam or another,” he says. “Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.”

Instead, he posits that the opposition is based on the very reasonable explanation that Americans “view… the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.” For that and the missed opportunity over nine years to take “proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies,” he holds American Muslim leadership accountable:

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. …

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

Real Muslim outreach would therefore require a frank discussion of this serious problem. It would require that we abstain from encouraging the victimology meme, which merely fuels anti-Americanism.

In this, much of the responsibility lies with Obama. He, after all, made Muslim outreach an official government policy. He went to Cairo and fed his audience the fiction that Palestinians are akin to enslaved African-Americans. He has asked nothing of the Muslim community — not sensitivity, not repudiation of specific terrorist groups, and not rejection of the noxious idea that America was responsible for 9/11. He may think he is bolstering Islamic self-esteem, but he is infantilizing Muslims and absolving them of the responsibility that is required of leaders who want to enjoy the love and respect of their fellow citizens.

An extremely insightful counterweight to the Washington Post’s slobbering over American Muslim leadership comes from Daniel Pearl’s father, Judea. He rejects the notion that mosque opposition is based on bigotry. “I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a ‘rightwing’ smear campaign against one imam or another,” he says. “Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.”

Instead, he posits that the opposition is based on the very reasonable explanation that Americans “view… the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.” For that and the missed opportunity over nine years to take “proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies,” he holds American Muslim leadership accountable:

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. …

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

Real Muslim outreach would therefore require a frank discussion of this serious problem. It would require that we abstain from encouraging the victimology meme, which merely fuels anti-Americanism.

In this, much of the responsibility lies with Obama. He, after all, made Muslim outreach an official government policy. He went to Cairo and fed his audience the fiction that Palestinians are akin to enslaved African-Americans. He has asked nothing of the Muslim community — not sensitivity, not repudiation of specific terrorist groups, and not rejection of the noxious idea that America was responsible for 9/11. He may think he is bolstering Islamic self-esteem, but he is infantilizing Muslims and absolving them of the responsibility that is required of leaders who want to enjoy the love and respect of their fellow citizens.

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Another Ground Zero Mosque Opponent

You recall that when Obama signed a bill named in honor of Daniel Pearl, his father, Judea Pearl, was not afforded the opportunity to speak. He’s a blunt man, so that may have been a wise move by the Obama White House. He is an especially effective spokesperson when it comes to “Muslim outreach.” The JTA reports:

Pearl told JTA that while he was “touched” by [Imam] Rauf’s appearance and speech at his son’s memorial, “many Muslim leaders offered their condolences at the time.” More to the point, Pearl said he is discouraged that the Muslim leadership has not followed through on what he hoped would come from his son’s death.

“At the time, I truly believed Danny’s murder would be a turning point in the reaction of the civilized world toward terrorism,” said Pearl, who engages in public conversations with Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic studies professor at American University, on behalf of the Daniel Pearl Dialogue for Muslim-Jewish Understanding. The established Muslim leadership in the United States, Pearl said, “has had nine years to build up trust by pro-actively resisting anti-American ideologies of victimhood, anger and entitlement.” Reactions to the mosque project indicate that they were “not too successful in this endeavor.” …

“If I were [New York] Mayor Bloomberg I would reassert their right to build the mosque, but I would expend the same energy trying to convince them to put it somewhere else,” he said. “Public reaction tells us that it is not the right time, and that it will create further animosity and division in this country.”

So I suppose David Axelrod and Daisy Khan would say that Pearl is simply following in the footsteps of infamous anti-Semites. I guess Nancy Pelosi would want him investigated. But under no circumstances would Obama want him back at the White House.

You recall that when Obama signed a bill named in honor of Daniel Pearl, his father, Judea Pearl, was not afforded the opportunity to speak. He’s a blunt man, so that may have been a wise move by the Obama White House. He is an especially effective spokesperson when it comes to “Muslim outreach.” The JTA reports:

Pearl told JTA that while he was “touched” by [Imam] Rauf’s appearance and speech at his son’s memorial, “many Muslim leaders offered their condolences at the time.” More to the point, Pearl said he is discouraged that the Muslim leadership has not followed through on what he hoped would come from his son’s death.

“At the time, I truly believed Danny’s murder would be a turning point in the reaction of the civilized world toward terrorism,” said Pearl, who engages in public conversations with Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic studies professor at American University, on behalf of the Daniel Pearl Dialogue for Muslim-Jewish Understanding. The established Muslim leadership in the United States, Pearl said, “has had nine years to build up trust by pro-actively resisting anti-American ideologies of victimhood, anger and entitlement.” Reactions to the mosque project indicate that they were “not too successful in this endeavor.” …

“If I were [New York] Mayor Bloomberg I would reassert their right to build the mosque, but I would expend the same energy trying to convince them to put it somewhere else,” he said. “Public reaction tells us that it is not the right time, and that it will create further animosity and division in this country.”

So I suppose David Axelrod and Daisy Khan would say that Pearl is simply following in the footsteps of infamous anti-Semites. I guess Nancy Pelosi would want him investigated. But under no circumstances would Obama want him back at the White House.

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Capturing the Imagination of the World

Barack Obama’s description of the barbaric butchering of Daniel Pearl — “one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is” — represents, as Mark Steyn writes, a remarkably fatuous statement.

Pearl was beheaded by the architect of 9/11, on video, immediately after he pronounced himself an American Jew. No one watching it was reminded of how valuable a free press is; nor did it capture anyone’s imagination, other than that of the jihadists who downloaded it to congratulate themselves, re-energize their efforts, and recruit others. It came five months after jihadists flew two aircraft into the World Trade Center, murdering 3,000 people, and two months before a jihadist murdered another 30 people (the demographic equivalent of 1,350 people in a country the size of Israel) during a Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya. These were not moments reminding us of the importance of tall buildings and nice hotels.

Ironically, Barack Obama will not be prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for beheading Daniel Pearl (perhaps because reminding us of the value of a free press is not technically a crime), but rather for the act of war committed on September 11, 2001. Obama wants to try him not as an enemy combatant but as a common criminal, in a civilian trial, giving him a public platform to create another video to be watched by jihadists around the world. It will undoubtedly be one of those moments that capture the imagination of the world.

Barack Obama’s description of the barbaric butchering of Daniel Pearl — “one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is” — represents, as Mark Steyn writes, a remarkably fatuous statement.

Pearl was beheaded by the architect of 9/11, on video, immediately after he pronounced himself an American Jew. No one watching it was reminded of how valuable a free press is; nor did it capture anyone’s imagination, other than that of the jihadists who downloaded it to congratulate themselves, re-energize their efforts, and recruit others. It came five months after jihadists flew two aircraft into the World Trade Center, murdering 3,000 people, and two months before a jihadist murdered another 30 people (the demographic equivalent of 1,350 people in a country the size of Israel) during a Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya. These were not moments reminding us of the importance of tall buildings and nice hotels.

Ironically, Barack Obama will not be prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for beheading Daniel Pearl (perhaps because reminding us of the value of a free press is not technically a crime), but rather for the act of war committed on September 11, 2001. Obama wants to try him not as an enemy combatant but as a common criminal, in a civilian trial, giving him a public platform to create another video to be watched by jihadists around the world. It will undoubtedly be one of those moments that capture the imagination of the world.

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Daniel Pearl’s Father Speaks Out

At the signing ceremony for the Freedom of Press Act, Obama — who studiously avoided any mention of “jihadists” or any term that might give onlookers a clue as to who killed Daniel Pearl and why — used Pearl’s eight-year-old son and his father, Judea, as props to adorn the Oval Office. They were not afforded the chance to speak. But now Judea gives an interview and expresses his views on Miranda rights and the KSM trial, among other issues. The interview is worth reading in full, and it’s clear why he was a silent participant in Obama’s stage show.

After Judea poignantly describes the task of explaining his son’s murder to his grandson — who was born after his father, Daniel, was killed — he turns to the KSM trial. Would he favor a federal-court trial?

I think it should be held behind closed doors. That’s based upon a very simple realization there is nothing more enticing for would-be terrorists than the idea they will get a stage in a New York court. It’s more enticing, I believe, than 72 virgins.

And what about Mirandizing terrorists?

Throughout history society has found new legal instruments to deal with new threats. Terrorism is a new threat; it needs to be dealt with newly invented legal instruments. And it’s a job of the attorney general to invent new legal regimes to deal with that problem. Terrorists should not be tried as soldiers nor as criminals. There should be a new category to deal with this particular threat. That’s my opinion.

You can see why Obama didn’t want to give him a speaking role.

There is one more interesting note: Judea has set up a foundation to fund “mid-career journalists from Muslim-dominated countries to come to the U.S. and work for six months at a major newspaper and go back to their countries and tell the readers what they have learned about the U.S. and the Jewish community in the U.S. They also work at least one week at a Jewish publication.” They’ve had 14 — at some risk to themselves — participate and return to their own countries to explain what freedom of the press is all about. Alas, not a single Palestinian journalist has participated. No, I’m not surprised either.

At the signing ceremony for the Freedom of Press Act, Obama — who studiously avoided any mention of “jihadists” or any term that might give onlookers a clue as to who killed Daniel Pearl and why — used Pearl’s eight-year-old son and his father, Judea, as props to adorn the Oval Office. They were not afforded the chance to speak. But now Judea gives an interview and expresses his views on Miranda rights and the KSM trial, among other issues. The interview is worth reading in full, and it’s clear why he was a silent participant in Obama’s stage show.

After Judea poignantly describes the task of explaining his son’s murder to his grandson — who was born after his father, Daniel, was killed — he turns to the KSM trial. Would he favor a federal-court trial?

I think it should be held behind closed doors. That’s based upon a very simple realization there is nothing more enticing for would-be terrorists than the idea they will get a stage in a New York court. It’s more enticing, I believe, than 72 virgins.

And what about Mirandizing terrorists?

Throughout history society has found new legal instruments to deal with new threats. Terrorism is a new threat; it needs to be dealt with newly invented legal instruments. And it’s a job of the attorney general to invent new legal regimes to deal with that problem. Terrorists should not be tried as soldiers nor as criminals. There should be a new category to deal with this particular threat. That’s my opinion.

You can see why Obama didn’t want to give him a speaking role.

There is one more interesting note: Judea has set up a foundation to fund “mid-career journalists from Muslim-dominated countries to come to the U.S. and work for six months at a major newspaper and go back to their countries and tell the readers what they have learned about the U.S. and the Jewish community in the U.S. They also work at least one week at a Jewish publication.” They’ve had 14 — at some risk to themselves — participate and return to their own countries to explain what freedom of the press is all about. Alas, not a single Palestinian journalist has participated. No, I’m not surprised either.

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RE: Obama Won’t Say Who Killed Daniel Pearl

Jennifer wrote this afternoon, regarding the signing of the bill named for Daniel Pearl, who died a martyr to freedom of the press: “Has Obama made this [freedom of the press] a priority with any thugocracy? No. And when signing a bill in the name of someone who elevated and personified the freedom of expression, Obama at least could have departed from his campaign to delete the name of our enemies from the public lexicon.”

He might also have taken questions from the press. As Chip Reid of CBS points out, the reporters were herded out of the room after the ceremony. “There was some rich irony at the White House today — President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act,” he wrote, “and then promptly refused to take any questions.” This is nothing new: as his presidency has evolved, Obama has become more and more remote from the press, except when he is in total control.

The press has never been so tightly controlled as it is now in the Obama White House. The president hasn’t held a formal press conference since last July 22. Perhaps he felt so badly burned by how that one turned out that he is unwilling to face a repeat. The only thing memorable about that conference, of course, was his coming down hard on the side of Professor Henry Louis Gates regarding his recent confrontation with Cambridge police. Obama said the police had acted stupidly and implied that racial profiling had been at work. It turned out that Obama didn’t know what he was talking about and that it had been Gates who injected race into what had been proper police procedure. He had to work hard to undo the damage.

Shouting questions at presidents is an old American tradition, and one remembers with affection how Ronald Reagan used to answer the ones he wanted to answer and elaborately pretend not to be able to hear those he didn’t want to answer. But then Ronald Reagan was a man of immense charm. Barack Obama is a man with far more self-regard than charm, and it’s really beginning to show.

Jennifer wrote this afternoon, regarding the signing of the bill named for Daniel Pearl, who died a martyr to freedom of the press: “Has Obama made this [freedom of the press] a priority with any thugocracy? No. And when signing a bill in the name of someone who elevated and personified the freedom of expression, Obama at least could have departed from his campaign to delete the name of our enemies from the public lexicon.”

He might also have taken questions from the press. As Chip Reid of CBS points out, the reporters were herded out of the room after the ceremony. “There was some rich irony at the White House today — President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act,” he wrote, “and then promptly refused to take any questions.” This is nothing new: as his presidency has evolved, Obama has become more and more remote from the press, except when he is in total control.

The press has never been so tightly controlled as it is now in the Obama White House. The president hasn’t held a formal press conference since last July 22. Perhaps he felt so badly burned by how that one turned out that he is unwilling to face a repeat. The only thing memorable about that conference, of course, was his coming down hard on the side of Professor Henry Louis Gates regarding his recent confrontation with Cambridge police. Obama said the police had acted stupidly and implied that racial profiling had been at work. It turned out that Obama didn’t know what he was talking about and that it had been Gates who injected race into what had been proper police procedure. He had to work hard to undo the damage.

Shouting questions at presidents is an old American tradition, and one remembers with affection how Ronald Reagan used to answer the ones he wanted to answer and elaborately pretend not to be able to hear those he didn’t want to answer. But then Ronald Reagan was a man of immense charm. Barack Obama is a man with far more self-regard than charm, and it’s really beginning to show.

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Obama Won’t Say Who Killed Daniel Pearl

At a signing ceremony for the Freedom of Press Act, it is ironic and shameful that Obama could not bring himself to identify the killers who beheaded the man who fearlessly reported on the jihadist terrorists. Obama had this to say:

All around the world there are enormously courageous journalists and bloggers who, at great risk to themselves, are trying to shine a light on the critical issues that the people of their country face; who are the frontlines against tyranny and oppression. And obviously the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is, and it reminded us that there are those who would go to any length in order to silence journalists around the world.

If you didn’t know already, you’d never figure out that he was talking about the Islamic fundamentalists who butchered Pearl. Obama then pronounced:

What this act does is it sends a strong message from the United States government and from the State Department that we are paying attention to how other governments are operating when it comes to the press. It has the State Department each year chronicling how press freedom is operating as one component of our human rights assessment, but it also looks at countries that are — governments that are specifically condoning or facilitating this kind of press repression, singles them out and subjects them to the gaze of world opinion in ways that I think are extraordinarily important.

Oftentimes without this kind of attention, countries and governments feel that they can operate against the press with impunity. And we want to send a message that they can’t.

But of course they can and do, safe in the knowledge that they will pay no price so long as this administration is in power. Has Obama done anything about the suppression of media critics in Egypt (other than prepare a lucrative financial package for the Egyptian government)? Has Obama made this a priority with any thugocracy? No. And when signing a bill in the name of someone who elevated and personified the freedom of expression, Obama at least could have departed from his campaign to delete the name of our enemies from the public lexicon.

At a signing ceremony for the Freedom of Press Act, it is ironic and shameful that Obama could not bring himself to identify the killers who beheaded the man who fearlessly reported on the jihadist terrorists. Obama had this to say:

All around the world there are enormously courageous journalists and bloggers who, at great risk to themselves, are trying to shine a light on the critical issues that the people of their country face; who are the frontlines against tyranny and oppression. And obviously the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is, and it reminded us that there are those who would go to any length in order to silence journalists around the world.

If you didn’t know already, you’d never figure out that he was talking about the Islamic fundamentalists who butchered Pearl. Obama then pronounced:

What this act does is it sends a strong message from the United States government and from the State Department that we are paying attention to how other governments are operating when it comes to the press. It has the State Department each year chronicling how press freedom is operating as one component of our human rights assessment, but it also looks at countries that are — governments that are specifically condoning or facilitating this kind of press repression, singles them out and subjects them to the gaze of world opinion in ways that I think are extraordinarily important.

Oftentimes without this kind of attention, countries and governments feel that they can operate against the press with impunity. And we want to send a message that they can’t.

But of course they can and do, safe in the knowledge that they will pay no price so long as this administration is in power. Has Obama done anything about the suppression of media critics in Egypt (other than prepare a lucrative financial package for the Egyptian government)? Has Obama made this a priority with any thugocracy? No. And when signing a bill in the name of someone who elevated and personified the freedom of expression, Obama at least could have departed from his campaign to delete the name of our enemies from the public lexicon.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post discovers Climategate: “In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?. . . Phil Jones, the unit’s director, wrote a colleague that he would ‘hide’ a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements. In another message, Jones talks about keeping research he disagrees with out of a U.N. report, ‘even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!'” Next, perhaps we can find out why it took the Post weeks to report on the story.

Make it twenty Iranian enrichment sites!

The most disturbing item in this Rasmussen poll on Afghanistan: “53% of voters believe the president places higher importance on ending the war. Just 28% say Obama thinks winning the war is more important. Another 19% are not sure.” It seems imperative for the president to explain himself if he is to convince allies and foes that he is determined to win.

Even Marc Ambinder can’t quite spin Max Baucus out of his trouble over recommending his mistress for a position of U.S. Attorney. Although Ambinder tries awfully hard to distinguish Baucus from conservative scandal-makers (“Mr. Baucus does not hold himself up to be a paragon of rectitude; he is not known for insisting that others follow a code of sexual morality or be damned or otherwise treated as second-class citizens by the government”), he concludes that “Baucus would ignore the conflict of the interest or so easily dismiss it calls into question his judgment and his ethics. That’s a scandal.”

The unmatched Iowahawk is at it again, with a faux Obama West Point address: “Anyhoo, after receiving General McChrystal’s request, I carefully reviewed and focus tested it with some of the top military strategist of DailyKos and Huffington Post. As an alternative, they suggested sending a special force of 200 diversity-trained surrender consultants. After several months of careful deliberation, polling, and strategic golfing, I told the General I would provide him a force of 30,000, which is fully 75% of a 110% commitment.”

The parents of Daniel Pearl on the civilian trial of KSM: “We are not concerned about the safety issues that this trial poses to New York City — we trust our law enforcement officers. Nor are we concerned about the anguish of our children who will be seeing the memories and values of their loved ones mocked and ridiculed in the court room — they have known greater pains before. We are concerned about the millions of angry youngsters, among them potential terrorists, who will be watching this trial unfold on Al Jazeera TV and come to the realization that America has caved in to Al Qaeda’s demands for publicity. The atrocity of 9/11 and the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl are vivid reminders of terrorists’ craving to dramatize their perceived grievances against the West.” Read the whole thing.

As much as liberal pundits are whining about it, Dick Cheney really is closer than Obama to most Americans when it comes to terrorist interrogations. And a plurality of Americans think Obama is not “tough enough.” Again, Cheney thinks so too.

The Washington Post discovers Climategate: “In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?. . . Phil Jones, the unit’s director, wrote a colleague that he would ‘hide’ a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements. In another message, Jones talks about keeping research he disagrees with out of a U.N. report, ‘even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!'” Next, perhaps we can find out why it took the Post weeks to report on the story.

Make it twenty Iranian enrichment sites!

The most disturbing item in this Rasmussen poll on Afghanistan: “53% of voters believe the president places higher importance on ending the war. Just 28% say Obama thinks winning the war is more important. Another 19% are not sure.” It seems imperative for the president to explain himself if he is to convince allies and foes that he is determined to win.

Even Marc Ambinder can’t quite spin Max Baucus out of his trouble over recommending his mistress for a position of U.S. Attorney. Although Ambinder tries awfully hard to distinguish Baucus from conservative scandal-makers (“Mr. Baucus does not hold himself up to be a paragon of rectitude; he is not known for insisting that others follow a code of sexual morality or be damned or otherwise treated as second-class citizens by the government”), he concludes that “Baucus would ignore the conflict of the interest or so easily dismiss it calls into question his judgment and his ethics. That’s a scandal.”

The unmatched Iowahawk is at it again, with a faux Obama West Point address: “Anyhoo, after receiving General McChrystal’s request, I carefully reviewed and focus tested it with some of the top military strategist of DailyKos and Huffington Post. As an alternative, they suggested sending a special force of 200 diversity-trained surrender consultants. After several months of careful deliberation, polling, and strategic golfing, I told the General I would provide him a force of 30,000, which is fully 75% of a 110% commitment.”

The parents of Daniel Pearl on the civilian trial of KSM: “We are not concerned about the safety issues that this trial poses to New York City — we trust our law enforcement officers. Nor are we concerned about the anguish of our children who will be seeing the memories and values of their loved ones mocked and ridiculed in the court room — they have known greater pains before. We are concerned about the millions of angry youngsters, among them potential terrorists, who will be watching this trial unfold on Al Jazeera TV and come to the realization that America has caved in to Al Qaeda’s demands for publicity. The atrocity of 9/11 and the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl are vivid reminders of terrorists’ craving to dramatize their perceived grievances against the West.” Read the whole thing.

As much as liberal pundits are whining about it, Dick Cheney really is closer than Obama to most Americans when it comes to terrorist interrogations. And a plurality of Americans think Obama is not “tough enough.” Again, Cheney thinks so too.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Multilateralism flops again: “President Obama and other world leaders have decided to put off the difficult task of reaching a climate change agreement at a global climate conference scheduled for next month, agreeing instead to make it the mission of the Copenhagen conference to reach a less specific ‘politically binding’ agreement that would punt the most difficult issues into the future.” Apparently, Obama has once again not been able, by the mere force of his presence, to move other nations to do what they’d rather not.

In case you thought U.S. prisons were a good place for terrorists: “Ten months before Al Qaeda in 2001 struck a deathblow in the heart lower Manhattan, one of the terrorist group’s founding members plunged a sharpened comb through [Louis] Pepe’s left eye and into his brain, blinding the 42-year-old prison guard and causing severe brain injuries that plague him to this day. Pepe told FoxNews.com he worries that sending Mohammed and four of his alleged fellow 9/11 conspirators to New York could compromise the safety of the guards at the MCC prison.”

Lynn Sweet: “About a year ago, thousands jammed Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate Barack Obama’s election to the White House, a communal civic defining moment. But those giddy days are long gone as Democrats in Illinois face the potential of losing the Senate seat President Obama once held next November.”

Another potential consequence of PelosiCare: “By teeing up a public battle over abortion in the health care bill now before the Senate, congressional Democrats could be risking more than just the fate of the legislation. Hanging in the balance are millions of Catholic swing voters who moved decisively to the Democrats in 2008 and who could shift away just as readily in 2010. … ‘There could be political repercussions in the election. It could be harder for the Democrats to keep those Catholics voters they gained and they may put some of their members at risk,’ said John Green, a religion and politics expert at the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron.”

Chris Caldwell: “The public is increasingly certain that the killings are a case of terrorism. Government and military leaders argue that we must not leap to conclusions, and that we are just as likely to be dealing with a variety of mental illness. A lot hinges on whether we think of Maj. Hasan as a mental case or a soldier of jihad.” It seems that the public is less inclined than the chattering class to buy the psycho-babble explanation.

David Axelrod takes a shot at Mitt Romney for taking a shot at Obama’s inability to make a decision. The White House seems a tad defensive on the topic these days, as well they should be.

James Pinkerton reminds us that we have gotten precious little from the Russians since the “reset,” explaining that “the Russians are not following through on their promise to allow America to establish an aerial supply corridor into Afghanistan. Back in July, they promised to allow up to 4500 flights a year from their territory, to facilitate American logistics for the war effort. So four months later, how many flights have there been? Zero.”

And on his Asia trip, Obama is “confronting the limits of engagement and personal charm.” Not a single foreign-policy success to come from all the smart diplomacy, it seems.

The first of many perhaps: “The family of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl expressed disappointment with the Obama administration’s decision to try the professed killer of their son, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a civilian court. … ‘We are respectful of the legal process, but believe that giving confessed terrorists a worldwide platform to publicize their ideology sends the wrong message to potential terrorists, inviting them, in essence, to resort to violence and cruelty in order to gain publicity.'”

Rep. Pete Hoesktra on the decision to try KSM in New York: “This is ideology run wild. We’re going to go back into New York City, the scene of the tragedy on 9/11. We’re now going to rip that wound wide open and it’s going to stay open for, what, two, three, four years as we go through the circus of a trial in New York City?” Yup. He explains that we have an alternative: “I would have put him through the military tribunal process. We started that process. They pled guilty. Why won’t the president take guilty for an answer and say now let’s go on to the sentencing phase?”

Multilateralism flops again: “President Obama and other world leaders have decided to put off the difficult task of reaching a climate change agreement at a global climate conference scheduled for next month, agreeing instead to make it the mission of the Copenhagen conference to reach a less specific ‘politically binding’ agreement that would punt the most difficult issues into the future.” Apparently, Obama has once again not been able, by the mere force of his presence, to move other nations to do what they’d rather not.

In case you thought U.S. prisons were a good place for terrorists: “Ten months before Al Qaeda in 2001 struck a deathblow in the heart lower Manhattan, one of the terrorist group’s founding members plunged a sharpened comb through [Louis] Pepe’s left eye and into his brain, blinding the 42-year-old prison guard and causing severe brain injuries that plague him to this day. Pepe told FoxNews.com he worries that sending Mohammed and four of his alleged fellow 9/11 conspirators to New York could compromise the safety of the guards at the MCC prison.”

Lynn Sweet: “About a year ago, thousands jammed Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate Barack Obama’s election to the White House, a communal civic defining moment. But those giddy days are long gone as Democrats in Illinois face the potential of losing the Senate seat President Obama once held next November.”

Another potential consequence of PelosiCare: “By teeing up a public battle over abortion in the health care bill now before the Senate, congressional Democrats could be risking more than just the fate of the legislation. Hanging in the balance are millions of Catholic swing voters who moved decisively to the Democrats in 2008 and who could shift away just as readily in 2010. … ‘There could be political repercussions in the election. It could be harder for the Democrats to keep those Catholics voters they gained and they may put some of their members at risk,’ said John Green, a religion and politics expert at the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron.”

Chris Caldwell: “The public is increasingly certain that the killings are a case of terrorism. Government and military leaders argue that we must not leap to conclusions, and that we are just as likely to be dealing with a variety of mental illness. A lot hinges on whether we think of Maj. Hasan as a mental case or a soldier of jihad.” It seems that the public is less inclined than the chattering class to buy the psycho-babble explanation.

David Axelrod takes a shot at Mitt Romney for taking a shot at Obama’s inability to make a decision. The White House seems a tad defensive on the topic these days, as well they should be.

James Pinkerton reminds us that we have gotten precious little from the Russians since the “reset,” explaining that “the Russians are not following through on their promise to allow America to establish an aerial supply corridor into Afghanistan. Back in July, they promised to allow up to 4500 flights a year from their territory, to facilitate American logistics for the war effort. So four months later, how many flights have there been? Zero.”

And on his Asia trip, Obama is “confronting the limits of engagement and personal charm.” Not a single foreign-policy success to come from all the smart diplomacy, it seems.

The first of many perhaps: “The family of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl expressed disappointment with the Obama administration’s decision to try the professed killer of their son, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a civilian court. … ‘We are respectful of the legal process, but believe that giving confessed terrorists a worldwide platform to publicize their ideology sends the wrong message to potential terrorists, inviting them, in essence, to resort to violence and cruelty in order to gain publicity.'”

Rep. Pete Hoesktra on the decision to try KSM in New York: “This is ideology run wild. We’re going to go back into New York City, the scene of the tragedy on 9/11. We’re now going to rip that wound wide open and it’s going to stay open for, what, two, three, four years as we go through the circus of a trial in New York City?” Yup. He explains that we have an alternative: “I would have put him through the military tribunal process. We started that process. They pled guilty. Why won’t the president take guilty for an answer and say now let’s go on to the sentencing phase?”

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Do Radicals Dominate Islam?

I am seldom accused of being wishy-washy or noncommittal when it comes to major issues of foreign policy. But I was decidedly undecided when I showed up last night for the Intelligence Squared debate in Manhattan on the resolution “Islam is dominated by radicals.”

The pro side was argued by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a former Islamic fundamentalist turned Christian evangelical who is now at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Paul Marshall, formerly of Freedom House, now at the Hudson Institute; and Asra Normani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter (and good friend of the late Daniel Pearl) who has chronicled her own battles against Muslim hardliners at her hometown mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia.

On the con side were Reza Aslan, a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; Richard Bulliet, a professor of history at Columbia; and Edina Lekovic, a Muslim of Bosnian descent who is director of communications at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (and who was wearing a head scarf).

Both sides threw out a lot of good arguments. Gartenstein-Ross and Aslan, in particular, engaged in some heated exchanges that entertained the audience. The problem is that neither side could really define the crucial terms in the debate—“dominated” and “radicals.”

Both agreed that radicals were certainly a big problem within Islam. The pro side pointed repeatedly to the Saudi and Iranian regimes as emblematic of the problem, and said that the Saudis are spreading their hateful Wahhabi doctrines. All true. But does Wahhabism dominate global Islam? The con side could point to convincing Pew opinion surveys showing that most Muslims reject Al Qaeda and its ideology of violence. They could also point to surveys (and election results in countries like Pakistan) that show most Muslims don’t want to be governed by hard-line Islamic parties.

The pro side replied that the views of the majority were irrelevant: the radicals were able to dominate the institutions of Islam and intimidate the moderate majority into acquiescence. There seemed to be some truth to this. But the pro debaters were, I thought, confused: were they complaining about the dominance of theological conservatism or of violent radicalism?

Normani, in particular, complained that a “patriarchy” dominated Islam: she cannot become an imam preaching to men; in more and more mosques women and men have to sit separately. That may be true, but that’s very different—and much less alarming from my infidel perspective—than saying that more and more Muslims are lining up to practice terrorism in the name of jihad. In fact, most conservative Muslims (e.g., Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq) oppose radical calls for a religious war even while preaching a version of sharia that would be intolerable to Western liberals.

In the end, I concluded that the pro side had not proven their case. They had certainly demonstrated that radicalism is a large and growing problem. But dominant? Not on the evidence presented last night. So I voted with the con side, notwithstanding my occasional annoyance at their leftist rhetorical tics. But I was in the decided minority. 46% of the audience voted “pro” before the debate, a figure that swelled to 73% after the debate.

While the debate was fascinating, the issue is not one that we should lose too much sleep over. Whether radicals actually dominate Islam or are simply trying to dominate it doesn’t really matter from a practical perspective. Either way, we need to do what we can do aid the forces of moderation if we are to prevail in the Long War.

I am seldom accused of being wishy-washy or noncommittal when it comes to major issues of foreign policy. But I was decidedly undecided when I showed up last night for the Intelligence Squared debate in Manhattan on the resolution “Islam is dominated by radicals.”

The pro side was argued by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a former Islamic fundamentalist turned Christian evangelical who is now at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Paul Marshall, formerly of Freedom House, now at the Hudson Institute; and Asra Normani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter (and good friend of the late Daniel Pearl) who has chronicled her own battles against Muslim hardliners at her hometown mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia.

On the con side were Reza Aslan, a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; Richard Bulliet, a professor of history at Columbia; and Edina Lekovic, a Muslim of Bosnian descent who is director of communications at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (and who was wearing a head scarf).

Both sides threw out a lot of good arguments. Gartenstein-Ross and Aslan, in particular, engaged in some heated exchanges that entertained the audience. The problem is that neither side could really define the crucial terms in the debate—“dominated” and “radicals.”

Both agreed that radicals were certainly a big problem within Islam. The pro side pointed repeatedly to the Saudi and Iranian regimes as emblematic of the problem, and said that the Saudis are spreading their hateful Wahhabi doctrines. All true. But does Wahhabism dominate global Islam? The con side could point to convincing Pew opinion surveys showing that most Muslims reject Al Qaeda and its ideology of violence. They could also point to surveys (and election results in countries like Pakistan) that show most Muslims don’t want to be governed by hard-line Islamic parties.

The pro side replied that the views of the majority were irrelevant: the radicals were able to dominate the institutions of Islam and intimidate the moderate majority into acquiescence. There seemed to be some truth to this. But the pro debaters were, I thought, confused: were they complaining about the dominance of theological conservatism or of violent radicalism?

Normani, in particular, complained that a “patriarchy” dominated Islam: she cannot become an imam preaching to men; in more and more mosques women and men have to sit separately. That may be true, but that’s very different—and much less alarming from my infidel perspective—than saying that more and more Muslims are lining up to practice terrorism in the name of jihad. In fact, most conservative Muslims (e.g., Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq) oppose radical calls for a religious war even while preaching a version of sharia that would be intolerable to Western liberals.

In the end, I concluded that the pro side had not proven their case. They had certainly demonstrated that radicalism is a large and growing problem. But dominant? Not on the evidence presented last night. So I voted with the con side, notwithstanding my occasional annoyance at their leftist rhetorical tics. But I was in the decided minority. 46% of the audience voted “pro” before the debate, a figure that swelled to 73% after the debate.

While the debate was fascinating, the issue is not one that we should lose too much sleep over. Whether radicals actually dominate Islam or are simply trying to dominate it doesn’t really matter from a practical perspective. Either way, we need to do what we can do aid the forces of moderation if we are to prevail in the Long War.

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Daniel Pearl, Six Years On

When the film “A Mighty Heart” was released last summer, Judea Pearl, father of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, wrote an exquisite rebuke of the moral relativism on display in the movie about his son’s murder. In addition to shooting a tendentiously “open-minded” script, the film’s director, Michael Winterbottom wrote:

[“A Mighty Heart”] is about people who are victims of increasing violence on both sides. There are extremists on both sides who want to ratchet up the levels of violence and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this.

Mr. Pearl should be commended for his ability to type after enduring such a sickening statement, let alone for his capacity to formulate the profound counterargument laid out in that must-read.

Today’s Wall Street Journal features a piece written by Judea Pearl to honor his son on the sixth anniversary of his murder. This article, too, is a necessary treatise on the state of affairs that contributed to Daniel’s videotaped beheading in Pakistan in 2002, and also on the way things have changed since then. Mr. Pearl focuses on the agenda-driven media’s contribution to global anti-Semitism. He cites the widespread broadcast of the Muhammad Al Dura hoax and news outlets’ willingness to serve up Hamas propaganda as legitimate news. He writes: “Eager to satisfy their customers’ appetite for self-righteousness, these channels have not thought through the harmful, in fact lethal, long-term effects of choreographing victim-victimizer narratives as news coverage.”

Judea Pearl proposes “the Daniel Pearl standard of honorable journalism. . .just choose any newspaper or TV channel and ask yourself when was the last time it ran a picture of a child, a grandmother or any empathy-evoking scene from the ‘other side’ of a conflict.”

The two articles work brilliantly together, as they demonstrate that impulses toward forced parity or toward heavy-handedness amount to the same thing: a dangerous distortion of the truth.

When the film “A Mighty Heart” was released last summer, Judea Pearl, father of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, wrote an exquisite rebuke of the moral relativism on display in the movie about his son’s murder. In addition to shooting a tendentiously “open-minded” script, the film’s director, Michael Winterbottom wrote:

[“A Mighty Heart”] is about people who are victims of increasing violence on both sides. There are extremists on both sides who want to ratchet up the levels of violence and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this.

Mr. Pearl should be commended for his ability to type after enduring such a sickening statement, let alone for his capacity to formulate the profound counterargument laid out in that must-read.

Today’s Wall Street Journal features a piece written by Judea Pearl to honor his son on the sixth anniversary of his murder. This article, too, is a necessary treatise on the state of affairs that contributed to Daniel’s videotaped beheading in Pakistan in 2002, and also on the way things have changed since then. Mr. Pearl focuses on the agenda-driven media’s contribution to global anti-Semitism. He cites the widespread broadcast of the Muhammad Al Dura hoax and news outlets’ willingness to serve up Hamas propaganda as legitimate news. He writes: “Eager to satisfy their customers’ appetite for self-righteousness, these channels have not thought through the harmful, in fact lethal, long-term effects of choreographing victim-victimizer narratives as news coverage.”

Judea Pearl proposes “the Daniel Pearl standard of honorable journalism. . .just choose any newspaper or TV channel and ask yourself when was the last time it ran a picture of a child, a grandmother or any empathy-evoking scene from the ‘other side’ of a conflict.”

The two articles work brilliantly together, as they demonstrate that impulses toward forced parity or toward heavy-handedness amount to the same thing: a dangerous distortion of the truth.

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A Mighty Heart

So respectfully does A Mighty Heart, Michael Winterbottom’s film about the death of the journalist Daniel Pearl, treat its subject that criticism seems indecent, like rebuking someone for their tears at a funeral. It depicts Pearl’s kidnapping in January 2002 and the anguish of his French wife Mariane—then six-months pregnant with their first child—waiting in torment for news of him. The outcome of this vigil is no secret: Pearl was beheaded a week after his kidnapping, although another three weeks would pass before the videotape of his murder was recovered. Mariane’s book about this experience, Un coeur invaincu (literally, “an undefeated heart”), serves as the basis for Winterbottom’s often poignant film.

One can see why the story appealed to Hollywood, or—to be precise—to Angelina Jolie. It is difficult to imagine a better role for an actress aspiring to real gravitas. Mariane Pearl has become, in the years since her husband’s death, a kind of secular saint. (Slate’s review aptly called the film “a hagiographic chronicle of the martyrdom of Mariane Pearl.”) In the wake of her husband’s murder, Mariane refused to stoop to public hatred or to become a shill for any political cause, devoting her energy instead to creating the Daniel Pearl Foundation, a philanthropic organization of deliberately ecumenical scope. But if Mariane Pearl eschews politics of any color, the film about her does not, to its ultimate detriment.

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So respectfully does A Mighty Heart, Michael Winterbottom’s film about the death of the journalist Daniel Pearl, treat its subject that criticism seems indecent, like rebuking someone for their tears at a funeral. It depicts Pearl’s kidnapping in January 2002 and the anguish of his French wife Mariane—then six-months pregnant with their first child—waiting in torment for news of him. The outcome of this vigil is no secret: Pearl was beheaded a week after his kidnapping, although another three weeks would pass before the videotape of his murder was recovered. Mariane’s book about this experience, Un coeur invaincu (literally, “an undefeated heart”), serves as the basis for Winterbottom’s often poignant film.

One can see why the story appealed to Hollywood, or—to be precise—to Angelina Jolie. It is difficult to imagine a better role for an actress aspiring to real gravitas. Mariane Pearl has become, in the years since her husband’s death, a kind of secular saint. (Slate’s review aptly called the film “a hagiographic chronicle of the martyrdom of Mariane Pearl.”) In the wake of her husband’s murder, Mariane refused to stoop to public hatred or to become a shill for any political cause, devoting her energy instead to creating the Daniel Pearl Foundation, a philanthropic organization of deliberately ecumenical scope. But if Mariane Pearl eschews politics of any color, the film about her does not, to its ultimate detriment.

A Mighty Heart begins on what was to have been Daniel Pearl’s last day in Pakistan, as he heads off for an interview with a certain Sheikh Gilani, who may know something about the shoe-bomber Richard Reid. The interview was a ruse; from this moment we never see Pearl again—just as Mariane never did—other than in flashbacks. We remain with her in her rented house in Karachi as the storm gathers around her. American and Pakistani intelligence officers descend, followed by colleagues from the Wall Street Journal.

Two of these unwanted guests come to loom large. One is the chief American intelligence officer, a creepy but genial presence played by Will Patton (whose geniality makes him all the creepier). The other is the Captain, a cryptic Pakistani security chief, at once an enormously sympathetic and shockingly brutal figure (we see him routinely slapping citizens who fail to answers his questions quickly enough). They alternately question Mariane and comfort her, making her house a kind of combination war room and support group.

Given Mariane’s essentially passive role, the principal challenge in playing her is convincingly to convey her emotional state. And this Jolie does exceptionally well, offering not so much an imitation of anguish as a simulacrum of it. She falters only once. When Mariane learns the fate of her husband, she withdraws into her room and gives up an agonized scream. It is a jarring, near-histrionic note in a film otherwise unfailingly low-key. It is not, however, the excesses of Jolie that mar this film, but those of its director.

In a sense, A Mighty Heart is two films. There is Mariane Pearl’s own story, the first-person account drawn from her memoirs. Although it is re-created with a large cast, the point of view is entirely solitary. Our perspective is identical to hers: we watch with her as her Karachi home fills with well-meaning strangers; we experience her remoteness and detachment. But this first-person story is embedded in another film, one that depicts the desperate police search for the sender of the e-mails that entrapped Pearl. Though the search takes up considerable screen time, it is no mere police procedural. Winterbottom’s framework consists of an impressionistic montage: we see shards of interrogation and vignettes of broken-down doors and midnight arrests, but not in such a way that we can follow the investigation’s track. Of course, we can hardly expect Mariane, who was not privy to police matters, and who in any event was in a state of shock, to provide a forensic account of the investigation. It is therefore not surprising that these scenes refuse to come into focus, and remain as dreamlike as the flashbacks of her husband.

From a dramaturgical point of view, these scenes are a necessary counterpoint to those with Mariane, which are bereft of explicit action; one can see why Winterbottom felt his film needed them. But in his treatment of the investigation, Winterbottom shows scenes and events that Mariane could not possibly have witnessed. Which raises a question: to what end did he interpolate them?

The fact that the most egregious of these scenes is one of torture may point toward an answer. A hapless low-level conspirator is suspended by his hands, while the enigmatic Captain quietly asks him questions, nodding his head slightly from time to time, requesting something that causes the captive to scream. The situation at this point is urgent—could information be extracted that might reveal Pearl’s whereabouts before he is killed?—but the Captain is unhurried, even ominously gentle. The scene is framed carefully so that we see neither the tormentor, nor precisely what he is doing, which is as it should be, from both a moral and an artistic point of view.

If any political moral is to be drawn from this film, it is to be found in this scene. What precisely is Winterbottom saying here? That such proceedings, appalling as they are, are a regrettable necessity? Far more accurate is Manohla Dargis’s observation, in the New York Times, that “Mr. Pearl would have probably been appalled that this outrage was committed on his behalf; the point is, we should be too.”

While Winterbottom feels free to show a scene of police torture, he refrains from even an oblique depiction of Pearl’s death. He doubly insulates the viewer from it, showing only the faces of Pearl’s friends as they watch his death on video. This omission may have been intended (partially, at least) as a kindness to Mariane Pearl. But its political overtones cannot be missed: Winterbottom assigned the film’s most disturbing images to the American and Pakistani investigators seeking to free Pearl. Pearl’s actual murderers are given no visual presence whatsoever. The most we see of them is a few of their cringing and pathetic flunkies, caught up unwittingly in the madness of contemporary global politics. We see them only, in other words, as victims themselves—as we see Mariane and Daniel Pearl.

In the end, A Mighty Heart belongs to the same moral universe as Oliver Stone’s 2006 film World Trade Center, which looked sympathetically at the victims of terrorism—but could not summon up the stamina to look honestly at the terrorists themselves. For Winterbottom, one of the most talented filmmakers alive, and one of the most concerned with moral complexity, this omission is all the more glaring.

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