Glenn Greenwald on the sage foreign policy wisdom of the ‘Underwear Bomber’

Glenn Greenwald’s response to the terrorist attack in Boston should come as no surprise to those familiar with his ‘Comment is Free’ blog, and his previous blog at

In addition to smearing as ‘Islamophobic’ anyone who suggested, in the early hours and days of the investigation into the attack which left 3 dead and over 200 injured, that the culprits may be Islamists, his reaction once it seemed clear that the terrorists were radicalized Chechnyan Muslims was to argue, in a fashion similar to Richard Falk, that such attacks should ‘inspire’ us to reflect on US policy in the Mid-East.

Greenwald’s April 24 post at ‘Comment is Free’, entitled ‘The same motive cited for anti-US terrorism is cited over and over‘, provides another good example of such reasoning.

Greenwald writes thusly:

In the last several years, there have been four other serious attempted or successful attacks on US soil by Muslims, and in every case, they emphatically all say the same thing: that they were motivated by the continuous, horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world – violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children.

He then quotes the complaints against US foreign policy expressed by several convicted Islamist terrorists, such as Faisal Shahzadthe Pakistani-American convicted of an attempted bombing attack at Times Square in 2010, Nidal Hasan, who will soon stand trial in a military court for the Fort Hood massacre, as well as the “Underwear Bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

bomberGreenwald cites the following grievances of Abdulmutallab, which he expressed in a US court before pleading guilty of trying to murder hundreds of people on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day in 2009:

I had an agreement with at least one person to attack the United States in retaliation for US support of Israel and in retaliation of the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Palestine, especially in the blockade of Gaza, and in retaliation for the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and beyond, most of them women, children, and noncombatants.”

Greenwald, while making it clear that violence is still not justified, added the following:

But it is nonetheless vital to understand why there are so many people who want to attack the US as opposed to, say, Peru, or South Africa, or Brazil, or Mexico, or Japan, or Portugal.

…so many Americans, westerners, Christians and Jews love to run around insisting that the only real cause for Muslim attacks on the US is that the attackers have this primitive, brutal, savage, uncivilized religion (Islam) that makes them do it.

As the attackers themselves make as clear as they can, it’s not religious fanaticism but rather political grievance that motivates these attacks. Religious conviction may make them more willing to fight (as it does for many in the west), but the motive is anger over what is being done by the US and its allies to Muslims.

it’s crucial to understand this causation because it’s often asked “what can we do to stop Terrorism?” The answer is right in front of our faces: we could stop embracing the polices in that part of the world which fuel anti-American hatred and trigger the desire for vengeance and return violence.

However, to add some context to Greenwald’s explanation of ‘why they hate us’, here’s a relevant passage from the court transcript at Abdulmutallab’s sentencing.

Defendant poses a significant, ongoing threat to the safety of American citizens everywhere. As noted previously, in pleading guilty, defendant reiterated that it is his religious belief that the Koran obliges “every able Muslim to participate in jihad and fight in the way of Allah, those who fight you, and kill them wherever you find them,” and that “participation in jihad against the United States is considered among the most virtuous of deeds in Islam and is highly encouraged in the Koran.”

The court sentencing document continues to explain what inspired him to jihad:

In August 2009, defendant left Dubai, where he had been taking graduate classes, and traveled to Yemen. For several years, defendant had been following the online teachings of Anwar Awlaki, and he went to Yemen to try to meet him in order to discuss the possibility of becoming involved in jihad.

Anwar Awlaki was the American and Yemeni Imam, killed in a US drone strike in 2011, who U.S. government officials believe was an al-Qaeda regional commander, and a senior ‘talent recruiter’ and motivator for the terrorist group – and who is believed to have influenced the jihadist rampage of the Fort Hood shooter.

Here’s an additional passage from Abdulmutallab’s sentencing:

Defendant by that time had become committed in his own mind to carrying out an act of jihad, and was contemplating “martyrdom;” i.e., a suicide operation in which he and others would be killed. Once in Yemen, defendant visited mosques and asked people he met if they knew how he could meet Awlaki.

Thereafter, defendant received a text message from Awlaki telling defendant to call him, which defendant did.

Defendant took several days to write his message to Awlaki, telling him of his desire to become involved in jihad, and seeking Awlaki’s guidance. After receiving defendant’s message, Awlaki sent defendant a response, telling him that Awlaki would find a way for defendant to become involved in jihad.

So, in short, the ‘Underwear Bomber’ sought out the advice of a senior leader of an Islamist movement which calls for global jihad, seeks states governed by religious autocracies similar to the Taliban in Afghanistan, advocates death for homosexuality, and believes Jews are the embodiment of evil.

The suggestion that we should listen to the foreign policy ‘analysis’ of such homicidal jihadists is akin to imputing wisdom to the suicidal rants of conspiracists and radical cults – as if we should see the “revolutionary mass suicide” initiated by Jim Jones as a learning moment about the need for “social justice”, or that the US should incorporate the militia movement-inspired complaints of Timothy McVeigh into federal policy.

The ideological proclivity of some on the far-left to empathize with those, like Abdulmutallab, who willfully embrace the most violent, reactionary and racist movements in the world represents a dynamic as dangerous as it is baffling. 

Guardian’s favorite Jihadist: Former al-Qaeda member Moazzem Begg published for 18th time at CiF

I’d truly like to understand the moral logic which guides those who believe that a man who associated with the most violent, hateful, misogynistic and reactionary movements in the world can be considered a voice for human rights.

Moazzem Begg, former member of Al-Qaida and the Taliban, who attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan to “assist in waging jihad against enemies of Islam” has published his 18th essay at CiF, “We demand the truth about British involvement in torture“, Jan 12.

Begg, a  British Pakistani Muslim, was detained by the Pakistani military in 2002 due to evidence linking him with al-Qaeda, was shortly turned over to the U.S., and spent two years in Guantanamo Bay before being released after pressure from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw – albeit over the strong objections of The Pentagon.

Bryan Whitman, U.S. Defense Dep’t spokesman, said after Begg’s release that there was no question he has strong, long-term ties to terrorism—as a sympathizer, as a recruiter, as a financier and as a combatant.”

Whitman added, quoting an eight-page confession that Begg made while incarcerated, that Begg admitted:

I was armed and prepared to fight alongside the Taliban and al-Qaeda against the U.S. and others, and eventually retreated to Tora Bora to flee from U.S. forces when our front lines collapsed…. [I] knowingly provided comfort and assistance to al-Qaeda members by housing their families, helped distribute al-Qaeda propaganda, and received members from terrorist camps knowing that certain trainees could become al-Qaeda operatives and commit acts of terrorism against the United States

After his release, Begg became an advocate for the rights of terror suspects, and, as Director for Cageprisoners, continues to speak around the country, lecturing on imprisonment without trial, torture, and anti-terror legislation, and has been promoted by Amnesty International.

True to form, Begg, in his latest CiF post, lashes out against allegations of extrajudicial detention, and torture, of terror suspects,  by the UK.

Yet, it would take truly exceptional mental tricks not to question the moral authority of a polemicist with proven ties to the Taliban, a group whose brutality and savagery, to both combatants and civilians, is exceptional even by the standards of Islamist terror groups.

Does it at all strike Guardian editors as odd to continually commission essays on the subject of “human rights” by a Jihadist associated with a group which engaged in simply horrendous repression of women and girls,  issued edicts which forbade women from being educated, and publicly beat women for running afoul of the regime’s morality police?

It would be impossible to do justice to the degree and quantity of Taliban atrocities, but, in addition to conducting nothing short of an extermination against the Hazara minority in the 90s, Afghanistan under the Taliban had, by any measure, one of the worst human rights records in the world.  They systematically repressed all sectors of the population, denied even the most basic individual rights, and literally enslaved the female population.  As Christopher Hitchens noted, “the Taliban does not violate human rights, but entirely lacks the concept of their existence.”

Astonishingly, Begg, the “human rights advocate”, wrote, in his autobiography that the Taliban had made “some modest progress—in social justice and upholding pure, old Islamic values forgotten in many Islamic countries.”

In fact, Begg’s support for terror hasn’t waned in recent years.

In an article in the Irish Times, when asked if the actions of the Taliban, and the resulting deaths British soldiers and foreign aid workers, were justified, he answered:

“If you are asking me what are my feelings towards people fighting occupation, the answer is I completely support them. I believe in the inalienable right to defend yourself against foreign occupation.”

In fact, in a recent essay published by Begg, titled ‘Jihad and Terrorism: A War of the Words’, he glorifies violent Jihad, writing:

“The Quran also describes both jihad and qitaal as a transaction for which the ultimate prize is achieved by paying the ultimate price: Indeed Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their wealth in return for Paradise. They fight in the Way of Allah, they kill and are killed.”


“O you who believe! Shall I guide you to a commerce that will save you from a grievous torment? That you believe in Allah and His Messenger and you perform jihad in the way of Allah with your wealth and your lives.”

In the very next paragraph, he writes that Jihad is the duty of every Muslim and condemns those who refuse to do this, as a ‘major sin’.

“According to the consensus of the Islamic schools of thought (mathaahib), jihad (with wealth and in person, in the military sense) becomes an individual obligation, like prayer and fasting, on Muslim men and women when their land is occupied by foreign enemies or when an invasion is imminent.

Moazzem Begg: former member, recruiter, propagandist and combatant for reactionary, murderous terrorist groups, believer that violent Jihad is required of every Muslim, and supporter of attacks against his nation’s own citizens.

And, “human rights” commentator at ‘Comment is Free’.

Meet Moazzam Begg: Al-Qaeda and Taliban supporter, and latest Guardian contributor

Moazzam Begg

For some reason, the Guardian never publishes essays by prominent liberal Muslims such as Irshad ManjiHasan Afzal, or Khaled Abu Toameh.

However, when it comes to radical, terror-supporting Muslims, the world’s leading liberal voice is typically happy to oblige.

Recently, they published an essay by former Guantánamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg, of the group Cagedprisoners (“Why is Canada acting like a Guantanamo Bay camp guard“), Oct. 13th, on Canada’s decision to refuse him entry into the country.

Begg was apparently refused entry on the grounds that his name is on a U.S. no-fly list and because he has admitted to being a former member of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In his CiF column, Begg, in characterizing the injustice of being detained by Canadian officials, likened himself to Nelson Mandela and implied he was just another victim of Western Islamophobia. 

However, evidence regarding Begg’s history of active support for terrorism is overwhelming.

Begg is widely believed by American intelligence officials to have been a member of Al-Qaida, and attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and England “so he could assist in waging jihad against enemies of Islam.”

Begg assisted several prominent terrorists and discussed potential terrorist acts with them; recruited young operatives for global jihad; and provided financial support for terrorist training camps.

Moazzam Begg is also ideologically associated with the Taliban and had a longstanding relationship with al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki, the senior recruiter and motivator who was involved with planning operations for al-Qaeda who was recently killed by U.S. forces.  Al Awlaki’s sermons are alleged to have helped motivate at least three terrorist attacks inside the United States.

Begg’s group, Cagedprisoners, lobbied to free al Awlaki from Yemeni custody after he was detained in 2006, broadcast a live message from al Awlaki during a fundraising event and reproduced Awlaki’s propaganda on its website.

Cagedprisoners’ goal seemed to be to spread Awlaki’s terrorist message in the UK — which Awlaki has repeatedly targeted as a recruiting ground.

In fact, Moazzam Begg confirmed, in his own autobiography, that he is a jihadist.

Despite Begg’s claims, in his CiF essay and elsewhere, that his confessions (regarding his links to jihadists) were made while tortured, the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation failed to substantiate Begg’s claims of torture, and found that his confession at Gitmo was voluntarily given

Following the death of Osama bin Laden, Begg’s site, Cagedprisoners, posted this sick parody titled “BREAKING NEWS: BARACK OBAMA IS DEAD”, which included this:

American War Criminal Barack Obama has been killed by Pakistani security forces in the UK, Prime Minister Hasan Abdullah of Pakistan has said.

Obama was shot dead at a compound near Camberley, in a ground operation based on Pakistani intelligence, the first lead for which emerged last August.

Mr Abdullah said Pakistan forces took possession of the body after “a firefight”.

Obama is believed to have ordered almost 200 attacks in North and South Waziristan between 2009 and 2011 in which almost 2000 people were killed, when he served as Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces. Obama is also believed to have ordered the continued bombardment of Afghanistan during the same period in which thousands of others were killed.

The satire, supposed to be read as an exercise in moral equivalence between Obama and Bin Laden, included the following image.  (FYI, this photo is the censored version):

The Guardian’s definition of what passes for liberalism seems to include even those advocating the most extreme religious intolerance, racism, and terrorism – with one small caveat.

Such “activists” must, of course, also possess the requisite hostility to the U.S., Israel, and the West.

CiF Watch interview with Jonathan Spyer, author of “The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict”

Jonathan Spyer is a Senior Fellow at the GLORIA Center, author and journalist specializing in the areas of Israel, Lebanon, Syria and broader issues of regional strategy. He agreed to answer some of my questions about his latest book, The Transforming Fire: the Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict, which Barry Rubin characterized as “probably the best book on Israel to be published in 30 years.”

AL: I was struck by your passage about how the “mythical Israel” has gained traction beyond Islamist circles.  You describe this mythical place as “a place of uninterrupted darkness and horror, in which every human interaction is ugly, crude, racist, brutal.”  In our work at CiF Watch, we’ve also noted how such a caricature has taken root among the UK intelligentsia, a dynamic which informs much of the reporting, and commentary, about Israel at the Guardian.  Do you have any insights as to how otherwise intelligent and sober minds can so easily accept such a facile and distorted picture of Israeli life – one which is unrecognizable to those who actually live here?

JS: Well, having just returned from a trip to the UK, I think one of the reasons for this is because of the sheer volume of copy and programming hostile to Israel which an average, intelligent consumer of media and TV in the UK would come across and be exposed to – compared to a near absence of anything much proposing an alternative view. In the week I was there, there was ‘The Promise’ – an extremely bizarre but very professionally made saga about the last years of the British Mandate, which managed to depict the 1947-8 period as a sort of attempt by hapless and nice Brits and Arabs to resist the onslaught of crazed Zionist immigrants damaged by the Holocaust. Then there was ‘War child’ about children in Gaza, and also a documentary about settler extremists. I’m not sure if this was an especially busy week!  Now, in contrast to this, as a Middle East analyst, in the past I’ve also been struck by the near silence in the British discussion concerning the brutal nature of many regional regimes.

AL: You mention the strength of radical Islam in the UK, and recounted your experiences as a student there in the 90s interacting with adherents to this movement.  Why, in your view, has the UK shown to be so much more fertile ground for Islamism, as opposed to, other European countries or the United States?

JS: I don’t know the answer to this, as I’m less familiar with the US situation, but I would counsel against any nation feeling satisfied with its performance in this regard.  Off the top of my head, the US produced Anwar al-Awlaki, and Nidal Hassan, so I don’t think this represents a shining success.  If one is to adopt a strictly empirical approach, the nation with the most ‘success’ in this regard is France, which has yet to suffer a major Islamist terror attack on its soil committed by home-grown terrorists. As I said, I don’t think anyone should feel smug. But its maybe worth noting that the French system combines an absolute, ruthless lack of tolerance toward foreign Islamist preachers and their activities on french soil (in marked contrast to the UK), with a very sophisticated intelligence community, which has for a long time included lots of people with regional languages and knowledge. I think everyone can see why both these things are good assets to have.

AL: As a new Israeli, I was especially moved by your characterization of Israel’s resiliency, adaptability, and – despite its relative affluence – her capacity, in your view, to understand and respond to the present and future challenges by Islamism (The Muqawama).  However, throughout the book, you also understandably expressed concerns about our capacity to resist this threat so, I’d like to know what currents in Israeli political, social, or intellectual life you think could possibly erode this capacity to resist the Islamist threat. For instance, in the late 90s, Yoram Hazony, in his book “The Jewish State“, suggested that post-Zionist thought represented a clear intellectual (existential) threat to the state.  Is there a dynamic in the current Israeli political context which particularly worries you?

JS: Yes, I am concerned at the withdrawal from politics of many of Israel’s ‘best and brightest.’  Israel produces excellence in many fields. But it is very noticeable that the young leaders in the most dynamic parts of the private sector tend to shy away from political activity and to some degree from public engagement.  I think we need to find a way to change this.  Also, I am worried by the state of Israel’s education system, and the performance of Israeli kids today relative to other countries in crucial subjects such as math and English.  Israel has been able to thrive because of its edge in the field of knowledge.  It’s vital that this edge is not lost.  And we can’t afford to have only small islands of world-class excellence in a sea of mediocrity. That isn’t going to cut it, given the nature of the challenges we face.

AL: Before reading your book, I was intrigued by the subtitle: “The Rise of the Israeli-Islamist Conflict”.  After finishing it, however, I now see that it’s a much more accurate characterization than the terms typically used, like “Israeli-Arab Conflict” or “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”  Can you expand a bit on the significance of this subtitle, and why you think its important to frame the conflict in such terms?

JS: The term isn’t mine. Martin Kramer came up with it.  And I liked it so much that I decided to annex it (thanks, Martin).  But first and foremost, the point is that this term is more accurate, because the main enemy in the axis now facing Israel – Iran –  is not an Arab country, so the old terms wont do.  Iran has also succeeded in splitting the Palestinian national movement, and arguably one half of that movement (the Ramallah Palestinian leadership) is not aligned against Israel in the current conflict – or at least it is certainly not allied with Iran so there is a clear need for a new term. Also, of course, the new anti-Israel axis is characterized by the fact that it consists almost exclusively of forces bearing allegiance to one or another form of political Islam.  So I think the term is an accurate and descriptive one.

AL: Your account of the battle your IDF armored unit was engaged in during the 2nd Lebanon War was quite gripping.  I’ve read other accounts by IDF soldiers and officers who described one of the military advantages of the IDF – beyond its weaponry, training, and preparedness – as a culture which encourages improvisation and initiative, and indeed empowers personnel to adapt to new military circumstances and even abandon a plan of battle if the circumstances warrant it.  From your experiences, is that a fair characterization of the IDF today?

JS: Flexibility, willingness to improvise, independence of thought – all these characterize the Israeli at his/her best, certainly.  At their worst, these can exhibit themselves as failure to engage in proper planning, failure to prepare and over-confidence.  So I think that when our army does well, it’s because it manages to turn the Israeli mentality toward the former, rather than the latter.  I sincerely hope that recent re-focusing in the military will produce the right results the next time around.  I think that from a purely military point of view, certainly from my layman’s eye, the signs emerging from recent campaigns and activities appear mixed.

AL: Regarding the political upheavals in Egypt, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s return to the country, how would you assess the chances of the Muslim Brotherhood gaining political power there? And, in the context of Egypt’s previous role (under Mubarak) as part of the anti-Iranian block of Arab states, are you concerned that, even if the MB doesn’t take power, they may break out of this alliance, and move closer to Iran and Syria?

JS: I think there is a very high chance that the Muslim Brotherhood will play a major role in Egyptian politics in the future. This does not mean that the movement will ‘seize power’ or will emerge as the sole ruler of Egypt. Rather, it will probably perform well in elections and emerge as one of the lay power brokers in the country.  This could well have the effect of moving the country away from its past role as a lynchpin of the western strategic architecture in the Middle East.  It doesn’t mean that Egypt will align with Iran and Syria. For economic reasons the country will have much motivation to remain aligned with the US. But it does mean that a more volatile and uncertain picture could emerge.

AL: Finally, are there any other writing projects you’re planning for the future?

JS: Well I am currently planning some articles on the Syrian opposition, where I have some interesting friends and contacts. I’d also like to write a book on the reasons for the relative success enjoyed by the Iranian (or IRGC) political-military model in certain areas of the Mid-East in the last years – specifically in Lebanon, among the Palestinians and in Iraq. This success has taken place despite Iran’s economic backwardness and the not especially sophisticated nature of their model.  So this is something which it is worth looking at. Of course, there are those who are saying that the current unrest in the Arab world will put paid to that success. I’m not convinced. We’ll see.

The Guardian demonizes Israel, again!

Take a look at this headline from an article in the CiF UK news section on December 1st, and at the accompanying picture used to illustrate the article.

The (barely) subliminal message here is perfectly clear; war criminals are Israeli and Israelis are war criminals.  C’est tout.

There is no mention, either in the headline or the body of the article itself of suspected war criminals from other nations: as far as the reader is concerned, this issue applies solely to Israelis.

There is no proper analysis of the manner in which the Law of Universal Jurisdiction has been abused in the UK as part of the lawfare campaign employed by politically motivated extremists to undermine Israel’s legitimacy.

The quoted official from Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen, apparently has no need for the niceties of ‘alleged’, ‘suspected’ or ‘innocent until proven guilty’, let alone some kind of legal basis for her accusations beyond the ‘if I say it, it must be true’ mode of thinking.

“Unless a way of guaranteeing a means of preventing suspects fleeing can be built into the proposals, then the UK will have undermined the fight for international justice and handed war criminals a free ticket to escape the law.”

Of course Amnesty International are old hands in the industry of demonising Israel, as report after report of theirs indicates and off the cuff comments made by some of their officials and partners point to a disturbing institutional culture of anti-Israel bigotry.

Strangely, (or not) Kate Allen’s rigorous standards of proof of guilt when it comes to suspected supporters of terror organisations – those which allow her to partner with Cageprisoners and Moazzam Begg with a clear conscience – appear to screech to a halt where anyone bearing an Israeli passport is concerned.

In the eyes of many, Amnesty International has compromised itself by abandoning principles of universal human rights in favour of radical politics.

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On Guardian contributors’ egregious moral failure in the Al-Awlaki Debate

This is cross posted by Matthew Ackerman, a Middle East Analyst at The David Project

A characteristically inane argument in the Guardian yesterday by Victoria Brittain and Asim Qureshi  tried to take to task Karima Bennoune for opposing the Center for Constitutional Right’s defense of Anwar al-Awlaki.

For those not keeping score, al-Awlaki is a Muslim with American citizenship who in recent years began preaching an increasingly radical version of Islam and moved to Yemen. In the past year, he has been cited as the inspiration for one successful and two near-miss acts of terrorism in the United States: the murder of 13 unarmed American soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas; the “underwear bomber” who tried to blow up an airplane during its descent into Detroit; and the unexploded car bomb left in Times Square in New York last spring. As is the case with al-Awlaki himself, two of the perpetrators in these cases are American citizens and all are fluent in English with easier access to the United States than most. All of this led the Obama administration to conclude that al-Awlaki was a legitimate target to be killed if he could not be captured, much in the same way we think of Osama bin Laden.

The offending column in the Guardian complains that Bennoune – in opposing support for al-Awlaki and criticizing “human rights” organizations for their inability to put these kinds of cases into the context of the wider Islamist movement at the same time that she opposes extra-judicial killings as illegal – isn’t being consistent. That is, extrajudicial killing is illegal, therefore it must be opposed in all cases.

It is not worth the time to dissect their arguments, because they don’t make one. They just state again and again that the act is illegal, that the act can only be sanctioned by a court, that Seton Hall law school says the people in Guantanamo are all good guys… And on and on.

It’s easy to see why Brittain and Qureshi think they don’t have to prove that the order by an American president to kill an individual directly implicated in a spate of terror attacks in the United States is “illegal” because, well, everyone knows that. Just read the papers! All you need to do is put the war on terror inside scare quotes and the case is obviously settled. No need to, you know, have some kind of legislative process where this thing is settled. Best if all of us little people leave those difficult matters to the trained professionals.

The disgusting stuff, as opposed to the merely disturbing, doesn’t come until toward the end, when after proving to their own satisfaction that al-Awlaki’s “persecution” is the cause of all that wishing for the death of infidels, Brittain and Qureshi move on to what should be done. Because, really, since al-Awlaki’s murderous desires are no more than the natural frustrations of Muslims subjected to the horrors of the “war on terror,” he, and others like him, just need to be “enfranchised.” Problem solved.

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The Islamist Demopath and his Dupe

This is a guest post by Mitnaged

44 Ways to Support Jihad, by Anwar Al Awlaki

Prof Richard Landes lists some of the characteristics of demopaths and, under the heading “Demopathic Discourse”, sets out the fundamental being-in-the-world of Anwar al-Awlaki: “…In order for me to prevent you from dominating me, I must dominate you first…” In most Muslim societies this is the status quo and the domination is literal and physical, but Al-Awlaki, as we are seeing, takes it to a new and hideous level by means of psychological manipulation and mind games.   Al-Awlaki, of course, dresses up his need to dominate in fundamentalist religious clothing, but at base level this need to dominate  – not the rights of Palestinians, not world domination by Islam – is his main driver.

The dupes of Islamist demopaths such as Al-Awlaki may not be Islamists themselves but the Muslim imperative of loyalty towards other Muslims, coupled with a lack of any sense of efficacy and a phobic injunction against being different in ideas or behaviour, add to the belligerent self-pity which can always be cranked up and all of these form a particularly toxic mix which Al-Awlaki takes advantage of and uses.

Nussaibah Younis is the latest in the Guardian/CiF’s stable of empty-headed apologists for Islamism, given her fifteen minutes of fame on CiF because she became besotted with this Islamist instigator of terrorism.

She still basks shamelessly in the reflected infamy of Anwar Al-Awlaki, whose groupie she unselfconsciously admits she was when she was seventeen years old, when Al-Awlaki was a “minor celebrity.”   She admits that she was “thrilled” to be “mesmerised” by him.  It seems that she still is.

Younis’ article is the usual shallow, selective and ill-informed nonsense designed to appeal to an audience who cannot cope with complexity and which questions very little    In the cloyingly self-pitying, “woe is me” fashion so beloved of Islamists, their fellow-travellers and apologists for their excesses, she tries to excuse Al-Awlaki’s descent into infamy.   Apparently, and according to her, Al-Awlaki was “deeply hurt” by the US response to 9/11* and that he began to believe that maybe American “freedom” was a charade.  Missing from her account, of course, is any awareness of context of the US response, and any awareness or understanding at all on her part of how Americans perceived the murders of thousands of their fellow-countrymen and women on 9/11 in the name of Islam. Of course demopath Al-Awlaki did not care about that – demopath that he is he was almost certainly more concerned about how to make use of it to boost his power base – and of course neither does she, because it would certainly interfere in a major way with the rosy picture that she tries to paint of the “rather literalist” (her words) Al-Awlaki’s behaviour and his motives.

*(Curiously, Younis makes no mention either of the fact that Al-Awlaki’s sermons were attended by three of the 9/11 hijackers from 1999. He reportedly met privately with at least two of them, Nawaf Alhamzi and Khalid Almihdhar, in San Diego, and one moved from there to Falls Church, Virginia, when al-Awlaki moved.  Investigators suspect al-Awlaki may have known about the 9/11 attacks in advance.   This strongly suggests that Al-Awlaki’s “hurt” had him beginning to manipulate others to commit terrorist acts years before 9/11 took place).

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A text book case in CiF moral equivalence

Julian Glover’s CiF piece, “Don’t turn a failed bomb plot into an al Qaeda victory“, trots out predictable Guardian tropes minimizing the threats faced in the West by Islamic extremism:

The failed bomb plot – in which incendiary devices designed by the top explosives expert working for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based militant faction, were intended to explode on passenger planes in mid-air – was dismissed by Glover as “a non-exploding printer cartridge packed in a box”.

He then devolves into classic boilerplate  moral equivalence by actually suggesting that Western government officials and al Qaeda terrorists may be equally culpable:

“There is another danger we need to be aware of too: the symmetry of self-interest between the would-be bombers and the security services assembled to stop them. Both have a tendency to magnify serious but isolated incidents into one great interconnected global battle.”

Glover then devolves even further into classic Western self-masochism:

“The threat to the west lies in the west and from the west. It comes from cells of bitter and dangerous Islamist expatriates, in Bradford or Detroit, and from a foreign policy that has gone out of its way to allow them to believe quite wrongly that we want to destroy Islam.

The degree to which many in the West simply refuse to take the threats posed by radical Islam – a violent, theocratic, reactionary, misogynistic, racist movement – seriously can’t be overstated.  The question asked after 9/11 in the U.S. by many on the far left, “what have we done to make them hate us so much,”continues to be repeated by otherwise smart and sober souls who apparently are unable to wrap their minds around the idea that there is indeed such a thing as good and evil and that, though not every issue in life is black and white, not every political challenge we face is morally gray.  The idea that radical Islamist groups will cease in their malicious designs against Jews, America, and the West more broadly, if only we behave better is breathtaking in its naiveté – and reminds me of those, during the Cold War, who suggested that the West and the Soviet Union were both equally to blame for the conflict.

There is a generation of young Europeans and Americans who were raised to believe in immutable Western culpability – a reflexive self-loathing that passes off as “progressive” thought, but really has no resemblance whatsoever to what the word has historically meant.  For, progressivism, if it means anything, refers to the belief that Western tolerance should end when faced with threats by those who are intolerant.  There is a slippery slope from tolerance to moral relativism, and form moral relativism to outright nihilism.  The inability of the Guardian left to morally distinguish between (admittedly imperfect) Western democracies (like UK, the US, and Israel) and undemocratic, illiberal terrorist movements (such as al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.) represents a perversion of the progressive thought they supposedly subscribe to, and a profound threat to the future of freedom around the world.

While it is of course true that war and conflict should be avoided whenever possible,  I long for the return of a progressive ideology similar to what existed during WW2 – a movement as passionate about their liberal values as they are about unapologetically asserting that such ideals are indeed worth fighting for.