In the "stealth Jihad" war of ideas over the past year, one American institution after another has signaled its willingness to surrender to the advocates of Islamic supremacism -- our homeland security, our military, and our law enforcement. Islamic supremacist groups have "guided" such American government organizations to create a "terror lexicon" that excludes "Jihad," to promote "progress" over "liberty," to blackball those who would confront the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic supremacists, to "train" our law enforcement, and to openly promote engagement with Islamic supremacist organizations as part of counterterrorism tactics.
Six months ago, the growing surrender in the war of ideas by America's counterterrorism community was seen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) memorandum endorsing the DHS "terror lexicon" prohibiting the use of the terms such as "Jihad," "Islamist," "mujahedeen." This milestone was part of a trend that has been growing for nearly two years. Since the November 2006 mid-term elections resulting in a Democratic Congressional majority, a growing number in counterterrorist organizations have been moving towards promoting analysts that support negotiations, rather than confrontation, with Islamic supremacists. The belief among some is that, should the Democratic Party win the presidency, a new Democratic administration would seek such "engagement" policies. As the presidential campaign has heated up, this emphasis has accelerated in some counterterrorist organizations, which fear ending up on the outside looking in.
However, over the past seven years, a vacuum of strategic war planning on Islamic supremacism by the U.S. military, intelligence, and executive branch (seen in today's "war on extremism") has made America increasingly dependent on what little strategic thinking that has been available from the counterterrorism community. The growing surrender of counterterrorism groups to the policies of appeasement and "engagement," legitimizing Islamic supremacists, undermines one of the last remaining "strategic voices" on Jihad. Increasingly, the numbers are shrinking in counterterrorism communities who seek confrontation against Jihadists and Islamic supremacists; some voices are being marginalized and silenced. This growing surrender will require average American citizens to increase their activism in demanding that their government representatives confront Jihad and Islamic supremacism.
September 23 will mark yet another milestone in the growing surrender of America's counterterrorism organizations, as Capitol Hill will be used to promote the ideas of those who think America should "engage" with Islamic supremacist groups.
Using Capitol Hill to Promote Appeasement of Jihad and Islamic Supremacism
One day after the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Counterterrorism Blog announced a panel discussion to be held on 10 AM at September 23, 2008 at a U.S. Capitol building facility in Washington, D.C. (2255 Rayburn House Office Building). This discussion will provide a platform for Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank to promote their views that by engaging with Islamic supremacists and Jihadists, the West can dissuade them from pursuing Al-Qaeda-style terrorism.
Peter Bergen is associated with the New America Foundation and Paul Cruickshank is a contributing expert for the Counterterrorism Blog; both are also research fellows with the New York University's Center on Law and Security.
The September 23 meeting entitled "The Jihadists' Revolt Against Al Qaeda" is being co-sponsored by the Counterterrorism Blog and by the New America Foundation (described by Washington Post writer David Ignatius in February as "a liberal think tank.") The meeting is to discuss Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank's New Republic (TNR) June 2008 article "The Unraveling," where they ostensibly argue that there is a "jihadist revolt against Bin Laden." This is the basis for their argument that engagement with Islamic supremacists and anti-Al-Qaeda Jihadists will make "America safer," and that in a war of ideas with Islamic supremacists, "it is their ideas, not the West's, that matter."
Per my July 16 response to their New Republic article, Bergen and Cruickshank use the example of Sayyid Imam Al Sharif's (aka "Dr. Fadl") rejection of Al-Qaeda as justification for such a policy. What they don't report is the rest of the story on Al-Sharif. In fact, Al-Sharif continues to support Jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq, where American soldiers are in harm's way, and Al-Sharif continues to support Jihad against Israel. Bergen and Cruickshank also don't report Al-Sharif's continued support for Islamic supremacism and the Taliban, where he states: "Jihad in Afghanistan will lead to the creation of an Islamic state with the triumph of the Taliban, God willing." Al-Sharif's support of Jihad is for the same Taliban that supported Bin Laden's 9/11 Jihad training camps, the same Taliban killing American soldiers today, and the same Taliban that seeks a global Islamic caliphate. Al-Sharif is the type of Jihadist that Bergen and Cruickshank think will make "America safer."
Such dangerously misleading information about the Jihad-supporting Al-Sharif has found its way into American government initiatives as well. On July 31, the Washington Times published an article (ironically titled "War of Ideas") where it interviewed James K. Glassman, the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Mr. Glassman was proud of his efforts within the government to promote Jihad-supporting Al-Sharif as an example of programs to "push back against violent extremist ideology." In the July 2008 issue of the West Point Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel, counterterrorist Michael Jacobson also cited Al-Sharif to our fighting men and women as an individual who had written a book "rejecting al-Qa'ida's message and tactics." But while describing Al-Sharif's concerns about not wanting to harm "innocent people," Mr. Jacobson fails to mention in his West Point article that Al-Sharif calls for Jihad against our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In their New Republic article, Bergen and Cruickshank also claim that the Muslim Brotherhood (whose motto is "Jihad is our way") is recruiting "moderates" at the British Finsbury mosque, based on reports of a power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood's Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and Abu Hamza's former followers, according to "Kamal El Helbawy, spokesman for the new trustees at the mosque." Bergen and Cruickshank ignore reports of the MAB's links to the terrorist group Hamas. They don't mention reports of Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets near the MAB-run mosque. They don't mention reports of Somali Islamic supremacists meeting sympathizers at the MAB-run mosque. But most revealing is their blanket acceptance that the Muslim Brotherhood would be recruiting "moderates." This comes back to a history of Bergen and Cruickshank's accommodation and praise for the Muslim Brotherhood members, especially their contact Kamal el Helbawy -- reportedly "the main Brotherhood man in Britain and Europe."
Two years ago, Bergen and Cruickshank were key members of an October 2006 New York University Center on Law and Security "Open Forum on the Muslim Brotherhood." One member of the forum that wasn't allowed into the United States was the Muslim Brotherhood's Kamal el Helbawy. (This is the same Kamal el Helbawy who advised Bergen and Cruickshank about the Finsbury mosque in their 2008 New Republic article.) Newsweek reported that Paul Cruickshank organized the October 2006 forum for this Muslim Brotherhood leader to speak in America. When Newsweek asked Mr. Cruickshank about why Kama el Helbawy wasn't allowed in the United States, Cruickshank was baffled, stating that "[h]e's a really respected guy... [h]e's very influential within the Muslim community in Britain and his name is recognized throughout the world." Helbawy told Newsweek that he had denounced terrorism "thousands of times."
But Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) leader Steven Emerson provided a different perspective of Bergen and Cruickshank's Muslim Brotherhood contact Kamal el Helbawy. In October 2006, Steven Emerson wrote for the Counterterrorism Blog about his own experience seeing Helbawy supporting Hamas, supporting an Intifada against Israel, and verbally attacking Christians and Jews. Steven Emerson also pointed to Helbawy speaking at a conference that included "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdul-Rahman, who is in prison for the 1993 World Trade Center attack. In retrospect, given Bergen and Cruickshank's call for engagement with individuals that would support Jihad in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel, their October 2006 defense of the Muslim Brotherhood's Helbawy is now hardly surprising.
Notably, two years after Paul Cruickshank's organization of this NYU conference for this Muslim Brotherhood pro-Jihadist who was forbidden from entering the country, Paul Cruickshank is now a contributing expert for the Counterterrorism Blog. Paul Cruickshank will be speaking at the September 23 Counterterrorism Blog-sponsored event on Capitol Hill to promote appeasement towards Islamic supremacists as a counterterrorism tactic.
The New America Foundation, who is a co-sponsor of the September 23 Capitol Hill panel on "The Jihadists' Revolt Against Al Qaeda," has also held their own conferences on Jihad. In February 2008, the New America Foundation sponsored a conference with non-interventionist Marc Sageman, author of "Leaderless Jihad," who is popular for his theory that Jihadists groups are merely "social movements" that kill simply for the "thrill." Sageman claims that we should not "make too much" out of Islamic supremacist ideologies. Sageman told the New America Foundation conference regarding Jihad that "it's more about hero worship than about religion." (See my March 17, 2008 article for more on Sageman and non-interventionists.)
Another notable New America Foundation conference addressing Jihad was held three years ago in Washington DC. On September 5-6, 2005, the New America Foundation and the Democracy Coalition Project sponsored the "National Policy Forum on Terrorism, Security and America's Purpose."
In this New America Foundation conference's working papers (page 11), Peter Bergen advises that a key aspect in fighting terrorism is to:
"Engage Islamist parties: The long-term solution to the problem of Muslim terrorist groups is a more democratic Middle East of their creation, not ours, where there is real political space for Islamist parties. Islamists and Muslim fundamentalists are not our enemies and can even be our friends. A more democratic Middle East will initially see the strong emergence of Islamist parties because they are generally more organized and have more legitimacy than other groups."
This concept that "Islamists... are not our enemies and can even be our friends" goes to the root of the problem with those in the counterterrorism community who would appease Islamic supremacists. They view political "Islamism," not as the supremacist, anti-equality ideology that it is, but as just another flavor of democratic political thought, like libertarianism. From this point of denial, it is a short walk to thinking that Jihadists aren't our enemy either, just those Jihadists that support Al-Qaeda.
This slippery slope of denial on the threat of Islamic supremacism and Jihad takes us to increasing recommendations of "engagement" and "counter-radicalization" that represents the growing surrender to Islamic supremacism within the counterterrorism community today.
Accepting "Jihad is Our Way" in Counterterrorism Strategies
In addition to the Bergen/Cruickshank calls for engagement with Islamic supremacists, the June 2008 West Point Combating Terrorism Center's Sentinel published an article by Peter Mandaville titled "Engaging Islamists in the West" (page 5). In this West Point article, Peter Mandaville argues that Islamists should be a "component of counter-terrorism solutions," and calls for the American engagement with Islamists in counterterrorism efforts from among "groups affiliated with the broad and diverse Muslim Brotherhood movement." How "broad and diverse" is a movement whose motto is "Jihad is our way"? And how could any groups whose defined goals are Jihad be part of any counterterrorism strategy?
Yet who can be surprised at such reactions from some in the counterterrorism community, when presidential candidate Barack Obama views as a key foreign policy position that "what we also want to do is to shrink the pool of potential recruits... [a]nd that involves engaging the Islamic world rather than vilifying it," when America does not yet have either a defined enemy or a strategy in dealing with Islamic supremacism?
An additional influence on American counterterror analysts comes from those in the United Kingdom and Europe who have already lost the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism, and have adopted a "leave me alone" policy of "counter-radicalization." Not unlike the Bergen/Cruickshank recommendations, those who promote "counter-radicalization," like the British Home Office's RICU, seek to focus their energies on Al-Qaeda and "criminals," while tolerating those who call for Jihad in other countries. As described in my August 31, 2008 article, advocates of "counter-radicalization" argue that the West should "engage" with Islamists, "political salafists," the Muslim Brotherhood, and other groups, as a way to prevent Jihadist violence (that is - in their country only). Not surprisingly, this is a popular policy in the United Kingdom, which has sought to influence American counterterror analysts to adopt such a policy of surrender in the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism here in the United States as well.
Counterterrorism analyst Matthew Levitt states that "political salafists have credibility when it comes to deradicalizing others." Mr. Levitt praises the British approach, stating that the "British realize they may have significant differences with 'political salafists' who think 'resistance' in Palestine or Iraq is legitimate, but are thinking about ways that they can at least leverage them and their positions in an effort to de-radicalize the most severe extremists (taqfiris) randomly targeting civilians today." In short, this perspective believes that it is acceptable to work with those who support Jihad in other countries and to legitimize an ideology of Islamic supremacism, if it can temporarily prevent violence in your country. It is exactly this type of surrender to Islamic supremacism that led to the United Kingdom becoming a haven for Jihadists for decades and led to their present Jihad terror problem today. Another counterterrorism analyst Lorenzo Vidino praised Mr. Levitt's article regarding "political Salafists/non-violent Islamists," and further states that Europeans have no choice but to accept "some form of cooperation with political Salafists/non-violent Islamists." According to Mr. Vidino, what is important is to understand the "difference between engaging and empowering." Mr. Vidino thinks Europeans "get" this, but the truth is that giving legitimacy to an Islamic supremacist group by engaging them... is empowering them.
Paul Cruickshank, Michael Jacobson, Matthew Levitt, and Lorenzo Vidino are all contributing editors on the Counterterrorism Blog that is sponsoring the September 23 panel featuring Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank's "Jihadists' Revolt Against Al Qaeda."
The counterterrorism movements supporting "engagement" with Islamic supremacism and the growing "counter-radicalization" policy influence from European "allies" (who have already surrendered to Islamic supremacism) shows how terribly misguided much of America's counterterrorism community has become today.
It would be comforting to know that there will be those who will successfully counter Bergen's and Cruickshank's arguments on the September 23 Capitol Hill panel. However, another one of the panelists has told members of the counterterrorism community that "I won't hesitate in saying that I believe we must initiate some kind of dialogue with the [Muslim] [B]rotherhood, even if we don't support their overall agenda." Worst of all, such thinking is becoming increasingly common among some counterterror analysts. This summary of the challenges in the counterterrorism community is sadly only the tip of the iceberg.
The very idea that we should reject "dialogue" with Islamic supremacists for the simple reason that every "engagement" with them, effectively legitimizes their efforts in the eyes of many - is completely lost. Without a defined enemy and a strategy, counterterror analysts and "experts" on Islam have a continuing free-for-all debate on what America should do about Jihad. As shown in the previous paragraphs, this strategic vacuum has allowed Islamic supremacist groups and their advocates to influence a growing number of counterterrorism analysts. This has resulted in calls to embrace Islamic supremacists, Jihadists, and to merely fight a "war on extremists." This has effectively resulted in many American counterterror analysts' surrender in the war of ideas.
Which Side Will You Be On?
There any many ways to sugar-coat "surrender" in the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism. Legitimizing Islamic supremacist groups through "engagement" with them is and will be viewed worldwide as nothing less than such surrender. Tolerating those who are against Al-Qaeda, but who continue to promote Jihad against Americans and others - is also nothing less than surrender.
In the war of ideas, tacticians within some counterterrorism organizations such as Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank seek to promote nothing less than surrender to Islamic supremacist ideologues. They will call it something else, such as a "dialogue," a "truce" perhaps, or maybe "an understanding" (like the British "gentlemen's agreement" with Islamic supremacists for decades). They may state that tolerating Islamic supremacists is merely "respecting cultural diversity," or they may claim that it is part of a policy of "counter-radicalization." But their overall viewpoint on Islamic supremacism is clearly communicated in Bergen's and Cruickshank's statement: "If this is a war of ideas, it is their ideas, not the West's, that matter."
And that is surrender in the war of ideas.
In this war of ideas on Jihad and Islamic supremacism, there remain two major ideological groups.
-- The "Leave Me Alone" Group: There is the group led by a growing number of career counterterror analysts who seek to appease and engage with Islamic supremacists, in the misguided belief that by seeking to convince such supremacists not to pursue violent terrorism for a while, this will reduce the threat of Jihad. They also believe that by "regionalizing" the discussion of Jihad that they can tolerate those who support so-called "defensive Jihad" (in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, etc.) if they are against Al-Qaeda.
-- The Anti-Jihad Group: The other group is the Anti-Jihad community that realizes any legitimacy given to Islamic supremacist organizations will only increase their stature, membership, and growing threat, and that regardless of Islamic supremacist organizations' momentary tactics, the ideology of Islamic supremacism remains the root cause of Jihad. They realize that any tactic that ends up giving legitimacy to Islamic supremacists will ultimately increase the threat of Jihad. This group also realizes that the ideas of "regionalizing" Jihad and accepting so-called "defensive Jihad" are misguided, as Jihad and Islamic supremacism remain transnational threats to all people and their hopes for equality and liberty.
Which side will you be on?
Not taking a side, not making a decision, is a decision as well. Those who don't make a decision will ultimately have someone else make it for them. With the growing surrender in our homeland security, in our military, in our law enforcement, and now, finally in our counterterrorism communities, remember that not making a decision may very well be equivalent to accepting surrender to Islamic supremacism.
The decisions we make now regarding the threat of Islamic supremacism (including not making decisions) will affect the lives, dreams, and hopes of Americans, of women, of children, and of countless others around the world. It is easier to do nothing, to say nothing. But it is right? Is it moral? Is it the American thing to do?
In the past year, the surrender in the war of ideas by increasing numbers of government officials and government organizations has been a great accomplishment for Islamic supremacists. Every time Americans don't stand up and speak out against those who offer terms of surrender, Islamic supremacists gain another victory in the war of ideas and their confidence and determination grows. Islamic supremacists view a tired and complacent America as a defeated America.
Are you ready to surrender to Islamic supremacists?
The silence of many of the 300 million American people has convinced a number of career counterterror analysts that you already have surrendered.
Prove them wrong.
Fear No Evil.
[Postscript - see also Sources documents for additional reading and background information.]