Commentary Magazine


Topic: Omar Abdel Rahman

The Day the War on America Began

Exactly 20 years ago on this date, a terrorist attack at the World Trade Center took the lives of six people and injured more than a thousand others. The tragedy shocked the nation but, as with other al-Qaeda attacks in the years that followed, the WTC bombing did not alter the country’s basic approach to Islamist terrorism. For the next eight and a half years, the United States carried on with a business-as-usual attitude toward the subject. The lack of urgency applied to the subject, as well as the disorganized and sometimes slap-dash nature of the security establishment’s counter-terrorist operations, led to the far greater tragedy of September 11, 2001 when al-Qaeda managed to accomplish what it failed to do in 1993: knock down the towers and slaughter thousands.

All these years after 9/11 and the tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden, are there any further lessons to be drawn from that initial tragedy? To listen to the chattering classes, you would think the answer is a definitive no. Few are marking this anniversary and even fewer seem to think there is anything more to be said about what we no longer call the war on terror. But as much as many of us may wish to consign this anniversary to the realm of the history books, the lessons of the day the war on America began still need to be heeded.

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Exactly 20 years ago on this date, a terrorist attack at the World Trade Center took the lives of six people and injured more than a thousand others. The tragedy shocked the nation but, as with other al-Qaeda attacks in the years that followed, the WTC bombing did not alter the country’s basic approach to Islamist terrorism. For the next eight and a half years, the United States carried on with a business-as-usual attitude toward the subject. The lack of urgency applied to the subject, as well as the disorganized and sometimes slap-dash nature of the security establishment’s counter-terrorist operations, led to the far greater tragedy of September 11, 2001 when al-Qaeda managed to accomplish what it failed to do in 1993: knock down the towers and slaughter thousands.

All these years after 9/11 and the tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden, are there any further lessons to be drawn from that initial tragedy? To listen to the chattering classes, you would think the answer is a definitive no. Few are marking this anniversary and even fewer seem to think there is anything more to be said about what we no longer call the war on terror. But as much as many of us may wish to consign this anniversary to the realm of the history books, the lessons of the day the war on America began still need to be heeded.

It should be acknowledged that the United States has come a long way in the last 20 years when it comes to awareness of the forces that launched that first attack. The 9/11 attacks changed the government’s priorities and forced those in charge of the security apparatus to make fighting al-Qaeda a priority, which was something that was nowhere on the country’s radar screen even after the atrocity that took place on February 26, 1993. The death of bin Laden in 2011 seemed to signal that the long battle against the Islamists had been fought and won by the U.S., allowing Americans to go back to sleep about terror–or at least to put it in our collective rear-view mirrors.

But as the 9/11/2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya demonstrated once again, the forces that launched the attacks on America are by no means as dead as bin Laden. Indeed, they continue to be a potent force throughout the Maghreb and the Middle East. The Taliban, al-Qaeda’s old allies and hosts, are poised for a comeback in Afghanistan as the United States gradually abandons what President Obama and the Democrats once called the “good war.”

Even more ominously, al-Qaeda’s ideological allies in the Muslim Brotherhood now rule Egypt in place of a secular regime, which, though undemocratic, was a vital ally in the global war on Islamist terror.

Here in the U.S., cases of home-grown Islamist terror continue to crop up as a new generation of Islamists continue to sow the seeds of an unending war against the “Great Satan” of the United States as well as its Israeli ally.

Unlike in 1993, the problem is no longer whether our intelligence and security establishment is serious about fighting terror, but rather whether we as a nation have the will and the patience to go on doing so. The willingness of the Obama administration to embrace the Brotherhood and to go on, as it did after Benghazi, pretending that the war on terror is over, is a sign that our will may be faltering.

It is no small thing that the Islamist government of Egypt that the U.S. has embraced has called for the freeing of Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called “blind sheik” who was the al-Qaeda mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center attack. As we think back on the 20 years since six Americans died as a prelude to the murder of thousands more by the same group, the sympathy for their killer ought to remind us that the fight against Islamism is far from over.

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Marc Thiessen on Keep America Safe

Marc Thiessen makes a valiant attempt in his Washington Post column to defend the campaign mounted by the group Keep America Safe, led by Liz Cheney, against the hyperbolically dubbed “al-Qaeda Seven” — seven Justice Department lawyers who, prior to entering government service, defended detainees accused of working for al-Qaeda. He writes:

Would most Americans want to know if the Justice Department had hired a bunch of mob lawyers and put them in charge of mob cases? Or a group of drug cartel lawyers and put them in charge of drug cases? Would they want their elected representatives to find out who these lawyers were, which mob bosses and drug lords they had worked for, and what roles they were now playing at the Justice Department? Of course they would — and rightly so.

But the situation is hardly analogous. The pejorative phrases “mob lawyers” and “drug cartel lawyers” refer to attorneys whose practices are consist either solely or mainly of working for rich gangsters. In many cases these lawyers became more or less a part of the criminal enterprise themselves, often taking illegal actions such as carrying a mob boss’s orders to his underlings from jail.

There are in fact “terrorist lawyers” in this sense. For example Lynne Stewart, who was sentenced to 28 months in prison for passing messages from the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, to his fellow terrorists. Or the French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who is engaged to marry Carlos the Jackal, and has compared the French police to the Gestapo.

If Stewart or Coutant-Peyre had been hired by the Department of Justice, I could see legitimate grounds for outrage. But the lawyers singled out by Keep America Safe are hardly in the same category. All they did was challenge the rules governing terrorist detainees or provide some representation to terrorist defendants. There is no suggestion that they favor terrorism or support al-Qaeda; all they did was what lawyers are supposed to do. As a group of Republican attorneys note:

Whether one believes in trial by military commission or in federal court, detainees will have access to counsel. … Good defense counsel is … key to ensuring that military commissions, federal juries, and federal judges have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions that affect both national security and paramount liberty interests.

Thiessen has a better point when he bemoans the double standard at work here. Many of those now outraged by the attacks on the Justice Department lawyers kept silent or applauded when John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and other honorable Bush administration lawyers were accused of being “war criminals” and threatened with prosecution for advocating a vigorous prosecution of the war against al-Qaeda. Perhaps this controversy will prove salutary if it will lead the Left to call off their attack dogs.

But there is an overriding cost that should be kept in mind: By focusing so much on the lower-level lawyers, Keep America Safe is missing the real problem. That starts at the top with Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, who seem willing to give terrorist defendants more rights than they received under the Bush administration — and more rights than most Americans think they deserve. I would suggest keeping the focus on Obama and Holder, not on underlings who are not the ultimate decision-makers here.

Marc Thiessen makes a valiant attempt in his Washington Post column to defend the campaign mounted by the group Keep America Safe, led by Liz Cheney, against the hyperbolically dubbed “al-Qaeda Seven” — seven Justice Department lawyers who, prior to entering government service, defended detainees accused of working for al-Qaeda. He writes:

Would most Americans want to know if the Justice Department had hired a bunch of mob lawyers and put them in charge of mob cases? Or a group of drug cartel lawyers and put them in charge of drug cases? Would they want their elected representatives to find out who these lawyers were, which mob bosses and drug lords they had worked for, and what roles they were now playing at the Justice Department? Of course they would — and rightly so.

But the situation is hardly analogous. The pejorative phrases “mob lawyers” and “drug cartel lawyers” refer to attorneys whose practices are consist either solely or mainly of working for rich gangsters. In many cases these lawyers became more or less a part of the criminal enterprise themselves, often taking illegal actions such as carrying a mob boss’s orders to his underlings from jail.

There are in fact “terrorist lawyers” in this sense. For example Lynne Stewart, who was sentenced to 28 months in prison for passing messages from the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, to his fellow terrorists. Or the French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who is engaged to marry Carlos the Jackal, and has compared the French police to the Gestapo.

If Stewart or Coutant-Peyre had been hired by the Department of Justice, I could see legitimate grounds for outrage. But the lawyers singled out by Keep America Safe are hardly in the same category. All they did was challenge the rules governing terrorist detainees or provide some representation to terrorist defendants. There is no suggestion that they favor terrorism or support al-Qaeda; all they did was what lawyers are supposed to do. As a group of Republican attorneys note:

Whether one believes in trial by military commission or in federal court, detainees will have access to counsel. … Good defense counsel is … key to ensuring that military commissions, federal juries, and federal judges have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions that affect both national security and paramount liberty interests.

Thiessen has a better point when he bemoans the double standard at work here. Many of those now outraged by the attacks on the Justice Department lawyers kept silent or applauded when John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and other honorable Bush administration lawyers were accused of being “war criminals” and threatened with prosecution for advocating a vigorous prosecution of the war against al-Qaeda. Perhaps this controversy will prove salutary if it will lead the Left to call off their attack dogs.

But there is an overriding cost that should be kept in mind: By focusing so much on the lower-level lawyers, Keep America Safe is missing the real problem. That starts at the top with Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, who seem willing to give terrorist defendants more rights than they received under the Bush administration — and more rights than most Americans think they deserve. I would suggest keeping the focus on Obama and Holder, not on underlings who are not the ultimate decision-makers here.

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RE: No Risk, They Say?

I seldom find myself in disagreement with my colleague Jen Rubin. This is one of those rare occasions. I am not as alarmed as she is by the prospect of moving detainees from Guantanamo to a super-max prison in Illinois. She cites an ABC News report to highlight the dangers but, in fact, I think the ABC report makes the case for the transfer. It notes that ultra-dangerous al-Qaeda prisoners are already being held at the supermax prison in Florence, Colordao, including the so-called “20th hijacker” Zacharias Moussaoui, the shoe bomber Richard Reid, the first World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, and dirty bomber Jose Padilla. All of them “ have essentially disappeared inside the Colorado facility.” One of their defense attorneys is quoted complaining, “ It’s a bleak and brutal existence that’s defined by, essentially an 8 x 10 rectangle in which they live. There is no socialization whatsoever and the isolation itself is extremely damaging.”

While it may not make a defense attorney happy, that’s exactly the fate that I would like to see befall more terrorists. What about the risks that Jen mentions? It’s true that the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, was able to communicate with his followers via his lawyer but that’s also possible in Guantanamo where the detainees now have access to attorneys. And it’s true that another al-Qaeda terrorist, Mamdouh Salim, who was being held temporarily at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, was able to stab a guard with a sharpened comb in an unsuccessful attempt to escape. But that could happen at Gitmo too. In any case, security is tighter at supermax facilities. No one, as far as I know, has ever escaped from such a facility.

The most compelling argument against transferring the Gitmo detainees isn’t the worry that they will break out or convey forbidden information through their lawyers. Rather, it is that they may gain new legal rights by being brought to U.S. soil. I am not a lawyer, and stand ready to be corrected on this score, but my understanding is that they have already gained a lot of rights even while in Gitmo thanks to Supreme Court rulings. Only if they gain significant new legal protections that make their release more likely should a transfer to the mainland be banned. If they can be held securely in a supermax facility without having to be brought before a civilian court for trial, it makes sense to do so because, essentially, that would be a cosmetic change that would undo some of the public-relations damage wrought to America’s reputation by the Gitmo facility while not compromising our security.

I seldom find myself in disagreement with my colleague Jen Rubin. This is one of those rare occasions. I am not as alarmed as she is by the prospect of moving detainees from Guantanamo to a super-max prison in Illinois. She cites an ABC News report to highlight the dangers but, in fact, I think the ABC report makes the case for the transfer. It notes that ultra-dangerous al-Qaeda prisoners are already being held at the supermax prison in Florence, Colordao, including the so-called “20th hijacker” Zacharias Moussaoui, the shoe bomber Richard Reid, the first World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, and dirty bomber Jose Padilla. All of them “ have essentially disappeared inside the Colorado facility.” One of their defense attorneys is quoted complaining, “ It’s a bleak and brutal existence that’s defined by, essentially an 8 x 10 rectangle in which they live. There is no socialization whatsoever and the isolation itself is extremely damaging.”

While it may not make a defense attorney happy, that’s exactly the fate that I would like to see befall more terrorists. What about the risks that Jen mentions? It’s true that the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, was able to communicate with his followers via his lawyer but that’s also possible in Guantanamo where the detainees now have access to attorneys. And it’s true that another al-Qaeda terrorist, Mamdouh Salim, who was being held temporarily at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, was able to stab a guard with a sharpened comb in an unsuccessful attempt to escape. But that could happen at Gitmo too. In any case, security is tighter at supermax facilities. No one, as far as I know, has ever escaped from such a facility.

The most compelling argument against transferring the Gitmo detainees isn’t the worry that they will break out or convey forbidden information through their lawyers. Rather, it is that they may gain new legal rights by being brought to U.S. soil. I am not a lawyer, and stand ready to be corrected on this score, but my understanding is that they have already gained a lot of rights even while in Gitmo thanks to Supreme Court rulings. Only if they gain significant new legal protections that make their release more likely should a transfer to the mainland be banned. If they can be held securely in a supermax facility without having to be brought before a civilian court for trial, it makes sense to do so because, essentially, that would be a cosmetic change that would undo some of the public-relations damage wrought to America’s reputation by the Gitmo facility while not compromising our security.

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No Risk, They Say?

ABC News has an informative report, making clear what conservative critics of Obama’s policy of moving the terrorists to U.S. prisons have long argued: that once here, they pose to Americans a risk that did not exist when they were housed at Guantanamo. The report explains that while the Obama team is assuring us that we “have nothing to fear” from the detainees, the result, in at least two situations, is quite different:

They are supposed to be cut off from the outside world, but the man called the blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted of inspiring attacks on the U.S., used his lawyer to pass messages back to his violent followers in Egypt. But even a warning from the FBI to officials at this New York prison wasn’t enough to stop one al Qaeda terrorist, Mamdouh Salim, from making a bloody escape attempt in the year 2000. His victim was prison guard Louis Pepe who Salim first blinded with hot sauce stored up in these empty honey bottles he somehow hid in his cell. Then Salim stabbed Pepe in the eye with a sharpened comb that went deep into Pepe’s brain, causing permanent damage.

It is no wonder that Republicans are seizing on the issue and intend to make it a top 2010 campaign issue. As Sen. John Cornyn said bluntly, the president and Congress’s job is to “prevent future attacks and not just punish people after there’s dead bodies lying around.” And again, one comes back to why all of this risk and expense. It is not as if we’re going to be scoring any brownie points with anyone. We can expect to hear more of this:

“It’s a bleak and brutal existence that’s defined by, essentially an 8 x 10 rectangle in which they live,” said defense attorney Joshua Dratel, who defended al-Qaeda terrorist Wadih El-Hage, now serving life in Florence. “There is no socialization whatsoever and the isolation itself is extremely damaging.”

Maybe Congress will go along with this scheme, as it has so far with the KSM trial. But at some point those running for office may hear from voters who wonder why they are being endangered and for what possible benefit.

ABC News has an informative report, making clear what conservative critics of Obama’s policy of moving the terrorists to U.S. prisons have long argued: that once here, they pose to Americans a risk that did not exist when they were housed at Guantanamo. The report explains that while the Obama team is assuring us that we “have nothing to fear” from the detainees, the result, in at least two situations, is quite different:

They are supposed to be cut off from the outside world, but the man called the blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted of inspiring attacks on the U.S., used his lawyer to pass messages back to his violent followers in Egypt. But even a warning from the FBI to officials at this New York prison wasn’t enough to stop one al Qaeda terrorist, Mamdouh Salim, from making a bloody escape attempt in the year 2000. His victim was prison guard Louis Pepe who Salim first blinded with hot sauce stored up in these empty honey bottles he somehow hid in his cell. Then Salim stabbed Pepe in the eye with a sharpened comb that went deep into Pepe’s brain, causing permanent damage.

It is no wonder that Republicans are seizing on the issue and intend to make it a top 2010 campaign issue. As Sen. John Cornyn said bluntly, the president and Congress’s job is to “prevent future attacks and not just punish people after there’s dead bodies lying around.” And again, one comes back to why all of this risk and expense. It is not as if we’re going to be scoring any brownie points with anyone. We can expect to hear more of this:

“It’s a bleak and brutal existence that’s defined by, essentially an 8 x 10 rectangle in which they live,” said defense attorney Joshua Dratel, who defended al-Qaeda terrorist Wadih El-Hage, now serving life in Florence. “There is no socialization whatsoever and the isolation itself is extremely damaging.”

Maybe Congress will go along with this scheme, as it has so far with the KSM trial. But at some point those running for office may hear from voters who wonder why they are being endangered and for what possible benefit.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What a difference less than a year of one-party liberal rule makes: “Republicans can take a bit of satisfaction from a new survey by Democracy Corps. … The survey found that voters now say, by a three-point margin (45% to 42%), that Republicans would do a better job on the economy than Democrats. That’s a change from the 16-point lead Democrats had in May on the question of managing the economy, and marks the first time since 2002 that Republicans have had a lead on the issue in Democracy Corps polling.”

The Afghans, I think, have reason to worry: “Afghan officials hope President Barack Obama’s address on Afghanistan won’t be weighted too heavily on an exit strategy — even though that’s the message many Americans and Democrats in Congress want to hear. If he talks extensively in his speech Tuesday night about winding down the war, Afghans fear the Taliban will simply bide their time until the Americans abandon the country much as Washington did after the Soviets left 20 years ago.”

The latest on radical jihadism at a taxpayer-supported college: “Siraj Wahhaj, a radical Muslim cleric who authorities in 1995 identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was last week invited to Queens College to speak on the subject ‘How Islam Perfected Thanksgiving.’ Wahhaj testified in 1996 for convicted terror plotter Omar Abdel Rahman, who was charged with attempting to bomb New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and the United Nations.” He was invited by the Muslim Student Association, a member of which was reported to have declared after the showing of a radical Muslim film: ‘If I had enough money I would be part of the jihad army, I would kill all the Jews.’ … Another spoke of getting a ‘bomb.’” Read the whole outrageous account.

The CBO’s latest: “Individual insurance premiums would increase by an average of 10 percent or more, according to an analysis of the Senate healthcare bill. The long-awaited report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) also concluded that subsidies provided by the legislation would make coverage cheaper for those who qualify.” And more expensive for everyone else.

The epidemic of BRIs (Bagel Related Injuries): “In 2008, according to an analysis of fingers cut by knives as reported in the government’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 1,979 people appeared in ERs with a BRI. Chicken-related injuries (3,463) led the category, but recorded bagel injuries were otherwise exceeded only by potato, apple and onion injuries. Bagels, in fact, were implicated in more finger cuts than pumpkins (1,195) or cheese (1,236). … (Of course, many BRI victims skip ERs and go to urgent-care offices. Or they stay home and eat breakfast anyway.)”

Jeffrey Goldberg acknowledges that in objecting to building in Gilo, within Jerusalem, Obama “doesn’t seem to understand that all settlements are not created equal. Palestinian negotiators have fairly consistently recognized that Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb built over the 1967 Green Line, but south, not east, of the city, would remain inside Israel in a final-status peace deal.” What’s worse is Obama’ justifying, or at the very least predicting, Palestinian violence. (“Obama’s statement reads almost as a kind of preemptive rationalization for violent Palestinian protest.”) Is there anyone who thinks the Obami haven’t made the Middle East “peace process” worse?

Not so fast: “Senators may have agreed to have the debate; but the parameters of the debate have not been set. The leaders have to agree on which amendments to consider when. The first two amendments were formally introduced Monday afternoon, but when votes will occur remains unclear.” One of those is an amendment by Sen. John McCain to strip out the Democrats’ draconian Medicare cuts: “Stripping the Medicare cost savings (cuts) would essentially kill the bill and send it back to committee.” Because the bill, you see, depends on hundreds of billions being slashed from Medicare. So don’t expect a vote too soon.

Well, he did say he was leaning against running: “The conservative blogosphere unleashed a torrent of criticism against Mike Huckabee Monday after a man whose sentence he commuted as Arkansas governor was suspected of gunning down four police officers in Washington state over the weekend.”

What a difference less than a year of one-party liberal rule makes: “Republicans can take a bit of satisfaction from a new survey by Democracy Corps. … The survey found that voters now say, by a three-point margin (45% to 42%), that Republicans would do a better job on the economy than Democrats. That’s a change from the 16-point lead Democrats had in May on the question of managing the economy, and marks the first time since 2002 that Republicans have had a lead on the issue in Democracy Corps polling.”

The Afghans, I think, have reason to worry: “Afghan officials hope President Barack Obama’s address on Afghanistan won’t be weighted too heavily on an exit strategy — even though that’s the message many Americans and Democrats in Congress want to hear. If he talks extensively in his speech Tuesday night about winding down the war, Afghans fear the Taliban will simply bide their time until the Americans abandon the country much as Washington did after the Soviets left 20 years ago.”

The latest on radical jihadism at a taxpayer-supported college: “Siraj Wahhaj, a radical Muslim cleric who authorities in 1995 identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was last week invited to Queens College to speak on the subject ‘How Islam Perfected Thanksgiving.’ Wahhaj testified in 1996 for convicted terror plotter Omar Abdel Rahman, who was charged with attempting to bomb New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and the United Nations.” He was invited by the Muslim Student Association, a member of which was reported to have declared after the showing of a radical Muslim film: ‘If I had enough money I would be part of the jihad army, I would kill all the Jews.’ … Another spoke of getting a ‘bomb.’” Read the whole outrageous account.

The CBO’s latest: “Individual insurance premiums would increase by an average of 10 percent or more, according to an analysis of the Senate healthcare bill. The long-awaited report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) also concluded that subsidies provided by the legislation would make coverage cheaper for those who qualify.” And more expensive for everyone else.

The epidemic of BRIs (Bagel Related Injuries): “In 2008, according to an analysis of fingers cut by knives as reported in the government’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 1,979 people appeared in ERs with a BRI. Chicken-related injuries (3,463) led the category, but recorded bagel injuries were otherwise exceeded only by potato, apple and onion injuries. Bagels, in fact, were implicated in more finger cuts than pumpkins (1,195) or cheese (1,236). … (Of course, many BRI victims skip ERs and go to urgent-care offices. Or they stay home and eat breakfast anyway.)”

Jeffrey Goldberg acknowledges that in objecting to building in Gilo, within Jerusalem, Obama “doesn’t seem to understand that all settlements are not created equal. Palestinian negotiators have fairly consistently recognized that Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb built over the 1967 Green Line, but south, not east, of the city, would remain inside Israel in a final-status peace deal.” What’s worse is Obama’ justifying, or at the very least predicting, Palestinian violence. (“Obama’s statement reads almost as a kind of preemptive rationalization for violent Palestinian protest.”) Is there anyone who thinks the Obami haven’t made the Middle East “peace process” worse?

Not so fast: “Senators may have agreed to have the debate; but the parameters of the debate have not been set. The leaders have to agree on which amendments to consider when. The first two amendments were formally introduced Monday afternoon, but when votes will occur remains unclear.” One of those is an amendment by Sen. John McCain to strip out the Democrats’ draconian Medicare cuts: “Stripping the Medicare cost savings (cuts) would essentially kill the bill and send it back to committee.” Because the bill, you see, depends on hundreds of billions being slashed from Medicare. So don’t expect a vote too soon.

Well, he did say he was leaning against running: “The conservative blogosphere unleashed a torrent of criticism against Mike Huckabee Monday after a man whose sentence he commuted as Arkansas governor was suspected of gunning down four police officers in Washington state over the weekend.”

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Cadets in New Jersey “Peace Lab”

A fresh-faced West Point cadet was on Fox News yesterday talking about a three-day-long class trip that helped him break a certain habit of mind. Prior to the field trip, he’d made a connection between terrorism and Islam. But after visiting Jersey City, New Jersey with other attendees of the semester-long “Winning the Peace” course, he saw this for the falsehood it plainly was. Where better than the city that housed the mosque headquarters of “Blind Shiek” Omar Abdel-Rahman’s terrorist organization to be disabused of such a baseless and
counterproductive notion?

Today’s New York Times describes the exquisitely balanced “cultural adventure” as it unfolded over the weekend:

On Thursday, the cadets, dressed sharply in gray uniforms, met members of the Jersey City Police Department and visited an Egyptian Christian church, St. George and St. Shenouda Coptic Orthodox Church on Bergen Avenue. On Friday, they spoke with Jerramiah T. Healy, the mayor of Jersey City, ate lunch with Pakistanis and dinner with Indians. On Saturday, they visited a synagogue, Temple Beth-El, and then, after taking off their shoes, sat in front of the altar at a Hindu temple, Govinda Sanskar Center. And for two days, they were welcomed as overnight guests of the Islamic Center of Jersey City.

Then there’s this culinary cuteness: “They debated the roots of Middle East tensions with a Muslim scholar over omelets and falafel at breakfast, and then stood next to a rabbi as he went over a sacred, handwritten Torah scroll.” Why no kreplach with the rabbi?

The four-year-old “Winning the Peace” course is designed ostensibly to expose future officers to the cultural and religious practices of the people they’ll be encountering overseas. On its face, no one could object. The long war against Islamism requires that our soldiers have a nuanced understanding of traditional Muslim values and Arabic cultural practices. But the truth is, in speaking to any U.S. military officer who’s spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan, you’ll find they know more about how to communicate with and instill trust in Middle Easterners than could be gleaned from a long weekend in New Jersey. Contrary to the Times’ condescending claim that “For many cadets, a number of whom had never been to Jersey City, this year’s trip amounted to a lesson in how big the world really is,” the world that U.S. officers come to understand is a lot bigger than most journalists will ever know.

So, what is this field trip really about? It’s about the U.S. Armed Forces demonstrating their “cultural sensitivity.” It’s about the PC-ing of a war whose true nature is rarely discussed. It’s about quieting the multi-culti chorus. None of which helps the U.S. win wars. Pretending that Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism is a deadly farce.

The Times quotes West Point senior Alex Smith as saying, “[We are from] different cultures, but we’re still the same people.” If that means anything, it’s incorrect. Different cultures create different types of people—who become different types of enemies. And any blurring of that understanding within the military could cost this country dearly. Over the past six years, the U.S. military has demonstrated an unprecedented ability in isolating enemies and minimizing civilian casualties. And they are to be commended for it, as distinguishing between moderate Muslims and Islamists is not only an ethical necessity, but a strategic one as well. However, if a PC-inspired denial of the connection between Islam and terrorism creeps into the military mind, the resulting setbacks could jeopardize the policies and practices that make U.S. operations honorable and effective. Everyone talks of the dangers of “the fog of war.” Let’s not make things more dangerous by making them foggier.

A fresh-faced West Point cadet was on Fox News yesterday talking about a three-day-long class trip that helped him break a certain habit of mind. Prior to the field trip, he’d made a connection between terrorism and Islam. But after visiting Jersey City, New Jersey with other attendees of the semester-long “Winning the Peace” course, he saw this for the falsehood it plainly was. Where better than the city that housed the mosque headquarters of “Blind Shiek” Omar Abdel-Rahman’s terrorist organization to be disabused of such a baseless and
counterproductive notion?

Today’s New York Times describes the exquisitely balanced “cultural adventure” as it unfolded over the weekend:

On Thursday, the cadets, dressed sharply in gray uniforms, met members of the Jersey City Police Department and visited an Egyptian Christian church, St. George and St. Shenouda Coptic Orthodox Church on Bergen Avenue. On Friday, they spoke with Jerramiah T. Healy, the mayor of Jersey City, ate lunch with Pakistanis and dinner with Indians. On Saturday, they visited a synagogue, Temple Beth-El, and then, after taking off their shoes, sat in front of the altar at a Hindu temple, Govinda Sanskar Center. And for two days, they were welcomed as overnight guests of the Islamic Center of Jersey City.

Then there’s this culinary cuteness: “They debated the roots of Middle East tensions with a Muslim scholar over omelets and falafel at breakfast, and then stood next to a rabbi as he went over a sacred, handwritten Torah scroll.” Why no kreplach with the rabbi?

The four-year-old “Winning the Peace” course is designed ostensibly to expose future officers to the cultural and religious practices of the people they’ll be encountering overseas. On its face, no one could object. The long war against Islamism requires that our soldiers have a nuanced understanding of traditional Muslim values and Arabic cultural practices. But the truth is, in speaking to any U.S. military officer who’s spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan, you’ll find they know more about how to communicate with and instill trust in Middle Easterners than could be gleaned from a long weekend in New Jersey. Contrary to the Times’ condescending claim that “For many cadets, a number of whom had never been to Jersey City, this year’s trip amounted to a lesson in how big the world really is,” the world that U.S. officers come to understand is a lot bigger than most journalists will ever know.

So, what is this field trip really about? It’s about the U.S. Armed Forces demonstrating their “cultural sensitivity.” It’s about the PC-ing of a war whose true nature is rarely discussed. It’s about quieting the multi-culti chorus. None of which helps the U.S. win wars. Pretending that Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism is a deadly farce.

The Times quotes West Point senior Alex Smith as saying, “[We are from] different cultures, but we’re still the same people.” If that means anything, it’s incorrect. Different cultures create different types of people—who become different types of enemies. And any blurring of that understanding within the military could cost this country dearly. Over the past six years, the U.S. military has demonstrated an unprecedented ability in isolating enemies and minimizing civilian casualties. And they are to be commended for it, as distinguishing between moderate Muslims and Islamists is not only an ethical necessity, but a strategic one as well. However, if a PC-inspired denial of the connection between Islam and terrorism creeps into the military mind, the resulting setbacks could jeopardize the policies and practices that make U.S. operations honorable and effective. Everyone talks of the dangers of “the fog of war.” Let’s not make things more dangerous by making them foggier.

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A Boxcutter, a Plane, a Qur’an – Again

On Sunday, 21-year-old Benjamin Baines Jr. was caught trying to bring a boxcutter on board a plane at Tampa International Airport. An X-ray machine picked up the boxcutter inside a hollowed out book entitled Fear Itself. Also on Baines Jr.’s in-flight reading list: Muhammad in the Bible, The Prophet’s Prayer, The Noble Qur’an, plus the Bible and the Qur’an.

The SunCoast News reports that Baines Jr. claims he’s a rapper and that rappers need to “play the part.” “Blade-wielding Islamist” strikes me as a “part” somewhat outside the average rapper’s repertoire and, though authorities say he has “no record of crimes or active warrants,” I’m not much comforted. Tampa, Florida is home to Sami Al-Arian, who some believe was Islamic Jihad’s top man in America. There are also reports that Al-Arian radicalized Tampa’s Masjid Al-Qassam Mosque. Let’s hope that some six years after 9/11 this box cutter case is treated more seriously than is your average criminal file. In his COMMENTARY article “When Jihad Came to America,” Andrew C. McCarthy details the series of investigative blunders that allowed radical Islam to flourish in America in the run up to the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. One of the more painful things to read about is how in 1990 authorities dismissed Sayyid Nosair, murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane, as a lone nut case instead of what he was: a plugged-in disciple of the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman—the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

The story of Benjamin Baines Jr. hasn’t generated much coverage, so we can’t know what investigative measures are underway. But this case should involve more than running a set of fingerprints through a sheriff’s computer.

On Sunday, 21-year-old Benjamin Baines Jr. was caught trying to bring a boxcutter on board a plane at Tampa International Airport. An X-ray machine picked up the boxcutter inside a hollowed out book entitled Fear Itself. Also on Baines Jr.’s in-flight reading list: Muhammad in the Bible, The Prophet’s Prayer, The Noble Qur’an, plus the Bible and the Qur’an.

The SunCoast News reports that Baines Jr. claims he’s a rapper and that rappers need to “play the part.” “Blade-wielding Islamist” strikes me as a “part” somewhat outside the average rapper’s repertoire and, though authorities say he has “no record of crimes or active warrants,” I’m not much comforted. Tampa, Florida is home to Sami Al-Arian, who some believe was Islamic Jihad’s top man in America. There are also reports that Al-Arian radicalized Tampa’s Masjid Al-Qassam Mosque. Let’s hope that some six years after 9/11 this box cutter case is treated more seriously than is your average criminal file. In his COMMENTARY article “When Jihad Came to America,” Andrew C. McCarthy details the series of investigative blunders that allowed radical Islam to flourish in America in the run up to the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. One of the more painful things to read about is how in 1990 authorities dismissed Sayyid Nosair, murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane, as a lone nut case instead of what he was: a plugged-in disciple of the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman—the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

The story of Benjamin Baines Jr. hasn’t generated much coverage, so we can’t know what investigative measures are underway. But this case should involve more than running a set of fingerprints through a sheriff’s computer.

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Ramadan’s Exclusion

Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Muslim celebrity academic and British government adviser who teaches at Oxford, is complaining again of his exclusion from the United States, where he was unable to take up a chair at Notre Dame. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he claims that he has been denied a visa “because of my criticism of [the Bush administration’s] Middle East policy and America’s unconditional support for Israel.” He lists an impressive-sounding array of U.S. organizations that “have understood that the real issue is my freedom of speech” and support his legal challenge.

In fact, Ramadan was denied a visa because of his donations to a Palestinian “charity” that supports Hamas. His claim that he was then unaware of this link is implausible, given his record as a hardline Islamist who has repeatedly refused to condemn Palestinian terrorism. In fact, Ramadan has a record of contacts with Islamist terrorists. The Algerian terrorist Djamal Beghal, who plotted to blow up the U.S. embassy in Paris, claimed that he “took charge of preparing the lectures of Tariq Ramadan” while studying with him in Geneva. Ramadan was excluded from France for his contacts with Algerian terrorists, though this ban was later lifted.

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Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Muslim celebrity academic and British government adviser who teaches at Oxford, is complaining again of his exclusion from the United States, where he was unable to take up a chair at Notre Dame. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he claims that he has been denied a visa “because of my criticism of [the Bush administration’s] Middle East policy and America’s unconditional support for Israel.” He lists an impressive-sounding array of U.S. organizations that “have understood that the real issue is my freedom of speech” and support his legal challenge.

In fact, Ramadan was denied a visa because of his donations to a Palestinian “charity” that supports Hamas. His claim that he was then unaware of this link is implausible, given his record as a hardline Islamist who has repeatedly refused to condemn Palestinian terrorism. In fact, Ramadan has a record of contacts with Islamist terrorists. The Algerian terrorist Djamal Beghal, who plotted to blow up the U.S. embassy in Paris, claimed that he “took charge of preparing the lectures of Tariq Ramadan” while studying with him in Geneva. Ramadan was excluded from France for his contacts with Algerian terrorists, though this ban was later lifted.


Even leaving aside this and other contacts with leading terrorists such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s deputy, and the “blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, who masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center—all of which Ramadan denies—his claim to be a leading moderate who seeks to “westernize Islam” and believes in freedom of speech does not square with his public pronouncements. (For fuller documentation of these charges against Ramadan, please see this from the indispensible Daniel Pipes.) It is rank hypocrisy for Ramadan, who rarely condemns censorship in the Muslim world, to accuse the United States of “muffling critical opinion” and “requiring all its citizens to think the same way.”

Ramadan justified the protests against Danish cartoons of Mohammed, claiming that the Koran prohibits representations of Islamic prophets. (In fact, it does not.) He supported the Islamist campaign to ban Voltaire’s play about Mohammed, Fanaticism, at the French town of Saint-Genis-Pouilly. He refers to Islamist atrocities such as 9/11 and the bombings in Madrid and Bali as “interventions” and denies that bin Laden was behind 9/11. He has praised the genocidal Sudanese Islamist regime. He attacked the French intellectuals Alain Finkielkraut and Bernard-Henri Levy for “betraying the French Republic” by their support for “sectarianism”, a euphemism for Zionism, and scandalized many by identifying them as Jews. According to Mike Whine, head of the British Community Security Trust, an organization which monitors anti-Semitism, Ramadan has made many anti-Jewish statements and “is at the soft end of the extreme Islamist spectrum.”

We do not know precisely why the U.S. Department for Homeland Security has repeatedly turned down his application for a visa, despite elements in the State Department who would like to revoke the ban. The evidence against him may well include classified information. What we do know is that Ramadan has never abandoned his project of Islamification, and that he wants to pursue it in the heart of the United States. As the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ramadan sees his own destiny in exalted terms. In his Chronicle piece, he speaks of the “period of transition” on which the West has embarked since the emergence of large Muslim minorities, who will require the host societies to make “major adjustments” to accommodate them. “We must move forward from integration,” he declares, while Muslims “must no longer see themselves as a ‘minority.’”

What does all this mean? What is Western society supposed to be in transition to—an Islamic one? What are these “major adjustments” that the Western democracies must make? What is wrong with the model of integration, which has served the United States well in the past, and why is it no longer good enough for Muslims? And why must Muslims no longer see themselves as a minority, if that is what they are?

Ramadan’s manifesto, moderate as it may sound, in reality amounts to a program of Islamification by stealth. His family was exiled from Egypt, and Ramadan remains persona non grata there, because the Muslim Brotherhood was and is seen as dangerous. It was the first and is still the largest Islamist organization in the world. Ramadan has achieved respectability in Europe, where he is feted by academics at Oxford and Geneva—he was even invited by the British government to sit on an advisory committee after the 7/7 subway bombings in London.

But the United States has looked more carefully at his record and decided that he represents a threat. To allow Ramadan’s brand of Islamism a platform in the heart of the American academy would be the equivalent of allowing, say, Martin Heidegger or Carl Schmitt to lecture in the United States during the Third Reich. It was the judge who had prosecuted many Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, Robert H. Jackson, who warned that the Constitution is not a “suicide pact.” It is not incumbent on a democracy to allow its enemies the freedom to subvert its very existence. Tariq Ramadan is just such an enemy.

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