What American journalists should be thankful for

Iraqi Leader Disparages US Media Coverage

Iraqi Leader Disparages US Media Coverage
By Dawn Rizzoni
CNSNews.com Correspondent
November 06, 2006

(CNSNews.com) – U.S. media coverage of Iraq was so gloomy that during a recent visit to the U.S. the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan wondered whether the situation had deteriorated to such a degree during his absence that he should stay away.

“CNN International and [Arabic television network] al-Jazeera are equally bad in their coverage of the situation in Iraq,” Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani was quoted as telling a visiting group of Americans on Monday.

“When I was in the United States recently and read the negative news in the Washington Post, New York Times and in the network TV broadcasts, I even wondered if things had gotten so bad since I had left that I shouldn’t return,” he said.

Barzani was speaking during a meeting with a group of Americans who have lost sons during the conflict in Iraq. The group is in the country, according to the trip organizers, to learn for themselves what their loved ones died for.

The Americans also met with Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani.

“The emotional meeting lasted for an hour as the families and Barzani exchanged stories of loss at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s violent regime,” reported Joe Wierzbicki, spokesman for Move America Forward (MAF), the group that organized the visit.

Earlier Monday, the delegation met with U.S. troops stationed in northern Iraq and presented them with a “God Bless Our Troops” banner that had been signed by several hundred Americans at rallies around the nation.

Wierzbicki told Cybercast News Service that the visit had been supported solely by funds from contributors. The delegation, comprising seven family members as well as MAF representatives, arrived in Irbil on Saturday for a 10-day stay.

The trip, which organizers call “historic,” has been in the planning stages for over a year and has been kept strictly secret until now.

“For more than one year, we have worked with these Gold Star families to put this trip together,” said Wierzbicki.

“These families have suffered an awful loss, and yet, they’ve redoubled their efforts to supporting our troops and the missions they are serving in,” he added. “Now they want to bring their message to the American people, and we are doing all we can to make sure this message is heard from coast to coast.”

U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein. An Iraqi court Sunday found the former leader guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death.

Wierzbicki said the families regarded the Saddam verdict as “especially heartening since their children gave their lives to free the people of Iraq and bring an end to Iraq’s dubious role as a state sponsor of terrorism under Hussein’s brutal rule.”

On Monday, the group released comments made by delegation members.

“Justice has been served, and we are now celebrating together with the people of Iraq,” said Joseph Williams, whose son, Michael, was killed near Nasiriyah in March 2003.

Another parent, Mike Anderson, said the verdict provided additional justification for the war on terrorism.

“We are doing the right thing in Iraq, and many of the people in Iraq are trying to do the right thing in building a future free of violence and terrorism,” said Anderson, whose son, Michael Jr., died in Anbar province in December 2004.

Debra Argel Bastian, whose son Derek Argel died in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province in May 2005, agreed.

“I am so happy to see that justice has prevailed over terrorism and bloodshed,” she said. “I am so proud of the men and women of the United States military who have made this moment possible. And I honor the sacrifice my son gave to serve his country in the war against terrorism.”

‘Spitting mad’

Argel also commented on Sen. John Kerry’s controversial “stuck in Iraq” comments last week.

“I am spitting mad at John Kerry for insulting our troops,” she said. “Duck and run was [Kerry's] specialty in Vietnam.”

Joe and Jan Johnson, who lost their son, Justin, in Baghdad in April 2004, had similar feelings about the Massachusetts Democrat’s remark.

“These were grown men we are talking about,” the couple said in a statement. “Contrary to Kerry’s belief, they made an ‘educated’ decision to join the military, most of them after 9/11, so they knew the possibilities of going to war were pretty good, and they chose to serve anyway.”

Kerry last week triggered a storm when he said during a California campaign event: “Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

As Cybercast News Service reported recently, the Johnsons claim in a newly released book that Kerry tried to recruit them at their son’s funeral to speak out against President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Instead, the family, whose son was good friends with Casey Sheehan, son of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, said they support the president and the war.

“I want to be able to tell the troops that there are Americans who still believe we are doing the right thing by being here,” Joe Johnson said.

A key reason for the visit is to enable the delegation visiting Iraq to see the progress the U.S. has made there since the war began.

“The American people are shown a skewed picture of the situation in Iraq day after day by the international news media,” said MAF Chairwoman Melanie Morgan.

“We felt it was time to allow the families of U.S. troops who died in Iraq to come see the progress being made in Iraq and report it back to the American people,” Morgan noted.

“I will tell anybody who will listen the good that we have done and are currently doing,” Anderson said. “We cannot find security by turning a blind eye or thinking that ‘if we leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone.’ That’s utterly ridiculous.”

Todd Bastian, Derek Argel’s stepfather, said the delegation had been “welcomed with open arms” when they arrived in Irbil province. “There appear to be a very grateful people here for our presence,” he said.

Irbil is one of the safer areas in Iraq – something MAF says that the media fail to show. “Most provinces in Iraq are without the violence that is shown each day by the international news media,” the group said in a statement, “but for some reason only the most negative developments from Iraq are regularly reported.”

Live updates and photos of the trip, as well as biographies of delegation members, can be found at the MAF website.

Cheney Warns Iraq Terrorists Trying to Sway U.S. Election

Cheney Warns Iraq Terrorists Trying to Sway U.S. Election

FoxNews.com
Monday , October 30, 2006

WASHINGTON — Terrorist groups in Iraq are stepping up their efforts to spark more deadly sectarian violence as a way of influencing how Americans will vote on Nov. 7, Vice President Dick Cheney alleged Monday in a FOX News interview in which he warned Americans not to fall for suggestions the War on Terror is losing ground in Iraq.

“Whether it’s Al Qaeda or the other elements that are active in Iraq, they are betting on the proposition they can break the will of the American people. They think we won’t have the stomach for the fight long-term,” Cheney told FOX News’ Neil Cavuto.

Cheney added that terrorists are “very, very cognizant of our schedule if you will,” though “they specifically can’t beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have.”

Cheney said the terrorists, who are sophisticated in their use of the Internet and know how to manipulate public opinion, are trying to win the War on Terror by demoralizing the U.S. public.

“They know that the way they win is if they can, in fact, force America to withdraw on the basis that we aren’t going to stay and finish the job, their basic proposition that they can break the will of the American people. That’s what they believe. And that’s what they’re trying to do,” he said.

Cheney also was asked about comments he made last week on a North Dakota radio station in which he was asked whether he’d condone dunking a terror suspect in water if it would save lives — an interrogation torture technique known as waterboarding, which mimics drowning.

Cheney called it a “no-brainer.”

Critics pounced on the vice president for suggesting that he sanctioned waterboarding. The detainee interrogation bill signed by the president last week prohibits CIA‘s use torture, but does not list waterboarding in a list of banned activities.

Asked again by FOX News whether the use of waterboarding was an appropriate interrogation tool, Cheney sidestepped the question by saying he does not discuss specific methods.

On next week’s election, Cheney said that despite the polls and predictions to the contrary, Republicans will maintain control of both chambers of Congress.

He also offered a positive outlook on the economy despite the latest reports that show some weakness in the housing sector, reduced gross domestic product last quarter and other indicators, and said economic successes would be endangered if Democrats take control after Nov. 7.

Hammering home a GOP theme, Cheney said the most liberal Democrats would be in charge if the House majority changes. He cited Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who is in line to take the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee if Democrats win control of the House.

“Charlie has said there’s not a single one of the Bush tax cuts he thinks should be extended. And he could achieve that objective simply by not acting. Unless there’s an affirmative action by Congress, legislation passed to keep those rates low, those rates are going back up, and he’d have a massive tax increase,” Cheney said.

As for his own future, Cheney did not budge on his position that he will not run for president if he were nominated and would not serve if elected.

The vice president did offer support for his wife, Lynne Cheney, who took on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview last week that was supposed to be on the second lady’s latest book.

Referring to a network special earlier this month that showed terrorists attacking U.S. forces, Lynne Cheney asked the anchor why the network was “running terrorist tape of terrorists shooting Americans.”

“Why are you running terrorist propaganda?” she asked.

Cheney said he didn’t encourage his wife to take a stand, but that he was proud of her.

“I thought it was great. We refer to it around the house as the ‘slapdown.’ And she was very tough, but she was very accurate and very aggressive … So she spoke her mind, and I thought it was perfectly appropriate,” Cheney said.

Tet Part II: CNN’s Snuff Film — By now, most of us have been subjected to the snuff film CNN received “through intermediaries from the Islamic Army of Iraq” and dutifully broadcast to its international audience. Making an already bad month for the war effort even worse, President Bush then surrendered a crucial piece of the rhetorical battlefield to his detractors, conceding that Iraq and Vietnam may be similar. “He could be right,” Bush said when asked about an Iraq-Vietnam-Tet comparison made by Tom Friedman. “There’s certainly a stepped-up level of violence.”

Tet Part II: CNN’s Snuff Film
By Alan W. Dowd
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 30, 2006

By now, most of us have been subjected to the snuff film CNN received “through intermediaries from the Islamic Army of Iraq” and dutifully broadcast to its international audience. Making an already bad month for the war effort even worse, President Bush then surrendered a crucial piece of the rhetorical battlefield to his detractors, conceding that Iraq and Vietnam may be similar. “He could be right,” Bush said when asked about an Iraq-Vietnam-Tet comparison made by Tom Friedman. “There’s certainly a stepped-up level of violence.” Whether this tactical retreat might give Bush maneuvering room on some strategic level is debatable—and so are the Iraq-Vietnam comparisons.  Of course, convincing war opponents, especially the far-Left fringe that animates the antiwar movement, of this is virtually impossible. That’s because members of the antiwar movement have a tendency to view everything through the prism of Vietnam. As a consequence of this (or perhaps as a contributing factor to it), they distrust American power and see war itself as the enemy. Through such a prism, Iraq and Afghanistan and Kosovo and Bosnia and Somalia and Desert Storm and Panama and Grenada all start to resemble Vietnam. Their perspective determines their opinion. And their opinion becomes fact. Never mind the exponential difference between lives lost in Iraq and Vietnam. Never mind the fragmented nature of Iraq’s insurgents versus the solidified North Vietnamese military-political-governmental apparatus. Never mind North Vietnam’s deep reservoir of great-power backing, compared to the Iraqi insurgents’ shifting and isolated base of support. Never mind the questionable legitimacy of the South Vietnamese government and the genuine democratic support for Iraq’s government. In truth, if there is a similarity between these two wars, it’s found in how the American media turned against both of them, as evidenced by CNN’s decision to broadcast what amounts to enemy propaganda.  It pays to recall the media’s breathless cheerleading as U.S. troops raced to Baghdad in 2003. Much of it was self-serving and self-laudatory, of course, but it still (happily) echoed the “we’re all in this together” attitude of World War II combat journalism. Likewise, despite revisionist histories, the media supported American involvement in Vietnam early on. As Derek Leebaert reminds us in The Fifty Year Wound, even The New York Times argued, “the cost is large, but the cost of Southeast Asia coming under the heel of Russia and communist China would be larger.” After the Tet offensive, the media bandwagon would quickly empty.  What the media failed to report after Tet—or at least failed to give equal print to—was that the U.S. and its allies won the battle and that North Vietnam lost about half the forces it deployed to carry out the massive offensive in South Vietnam, that North Vietnamese death squads executed as many as 4,000 people during the operation. As military historian John Keegan observes in the London Telegraph, “Insofar as Tet was a defeat for the United States and for the South Vietnamese government, it was because the American media decided to represent it as such.” (Keegan details the dissimilarities between Iraq and Vietnam here, as does historian Frederick Kagan here.) Today, the media are eager to tell only the bleak side of what is happening in Iraq (and there is indeed a bleak side), to broadcast only footage of carnage and chaos (and there is plenty of both), to turn their unblinking eyes only onto the failures in Iraq and away from the successes (and again, there are plenty of both). In other words, this is not a case of blaming the messenger for delivering bad news—it’s a case of the messenger delivering partial news.  In his attempt to rationalize the segment that aired on his program, CNN’s Anderson Cooper claimed he was providing “a clear and honest accounting” of the war in Iraq and what American troops are up against in that broken land. But a partial picture is neither clear nor honest. And this is worrisome, because most Americans receive their news from media outlets that provide only that partial picture. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed long before the British carved out the borders of Iraq and long before the French gave up on Indochina, “Among democratic nations, the private soldiers remain most like civilians; upon them, the habits of the nation have the firmest hold and public opinion has the most influence.”   How often do Americans hear any news about success in Iraq? It’s out there, but they won’t find it unless they go searching for it. Karl Zinsmeister did his best to spread some of the good news during multiple visits to Iraq while he served as editor of The American Enterprise. More good news can be found at DefendAmerica.mil, the Multinational Forces-Iraq website and the State Department.  Thanks to these and other sources, there is at least enough good news from Iraq to call into question the Vietnam parallel:

  • In 2005 alone, Iraq held three nationwide elections, including elections for the interim government, a referendum on the constitution and elections for the constitutional government. In December 2005, almost 11 million Iraqis—close to 75 percent of eligible voters—joined in the democratic process.
  • Today, there are 300 political parties and coalitions registered with Iraq’s election commission. 
  • The courts are handling some 10,000 felony cases each year—and administering the trial of Saddam Hussein.
  • Iraq’s GDP is climbing: It was $13.6 billion in 2003, $25.5 billion in 2004 and is expected to grow by 17 percent by the end of 2006.
  • In December 2005, the European Union began the process of negotiations for a Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Iraq.
  • According to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, “We have now passed four major Security Council resolutions on Iraq, most of them unanimously, pledging the UN’s support for everything from an international mandate for our coalition forces, to an international rejection of terrorism in Iraq, to the goal of advancing Iraq’s democratic process.”
  • In fact, after three years of war and counterinsurgency, some 22 nations in addition to the U.S. and Iraq still have boots on the ground.
  • Polling conducted by Oxford Research International reveals that 71 percent of Iraqis say life is “good;” more than half say that “life is already better for them than it was under Saddam;” and 61 percent say security is good in their area.
  • With the help of U.S. troops, one-third of Iraq’s schools—in peacetime used as places of Baathist indoctrination, and in wartime used as anti-aircraft sites—have been rehabilitated. Plus, there are 628 new schools under construction. All told, some 3,400 schools have been rehabilitated since 2003, and more than 36,000 teachers have been trained. 

And the list goes on and on. Yet the bad news—and the bad news alone—gushes out of the mainstream media in an unrelenting torrent. Sometimes, as the pathetic example of CNN reminds us, it even comes specially delivered in a videotape from the newsmakers themselves. There is a strange, unintentional symbolism in the way CNN’s producers chose to broadcast the video they received from the snipers of the Islamic Army of Iraq: They played the footage of the gunmen targeting their prey, faded out for that brief, terrible moment when the bullet hit a young American soldier or Marine, and then brought the picture back into focus once the target was felled. How apt—yet another partial picture of what is happening in Iraq.

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The Associated (w/terrorists) Press strikes again — The Pentagon said on Monday that an Iraqi photographer working for The Associated Press and held by the U.S. military since April was considered a security threat with “strong ties to known insurgents.”

The Associated (w/terrorists) Press strikes again

By Michelle Malkin   ·   October 28, 2006 11:13 AM

 

The Associated (with terrorists) Press reported yesterday on a lobbying campaign to free its Iraqi-based photographer Bilal Hussein, who has been in U.S. military detention since April (a fact first reported not by the A(w/t)P, but here on this blog).

Who is spearheading the Free Bilal lobbying campaign? Yup, the A(w/t)P:

The U.S. military’s indefinite detention of an Associated Press photographer in Iraq, without charges, is an outrage and should be seen as such by the journalistic community, AP editors said Friday.”We are angry, and we hope you are, too,”AP International Editor John Daniszewski told a gathering of the Associated Press Managing Editors.

In interviews, the leaders of APME and the American Society of Newspaper Editors shared frustration with the case of Bilal Hussein, who has been held by the military since April. Later they and the president of the Associated Press Photo Managers signed a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urging him to release the photographer.

The editors said Hussein’s arrest”has denied our readers a part of the story”and given the military justice system”a black eye.”

The Pentagon’s refusal to give Hussein”his day in court, or any semblance of due process, has violated a cherished American value,”they wrote.

The AP similarly has called for the military to release the photographer or charge him with a crime.

Go read the entire A(w/t)P article. Guess what’s missing? Not a word about how the news organization sat on the news for five months. Not a word about the circumstances of Hussein’s capture and detention. A reminder:

The military said Hussein was captured with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. “He has close relationships with persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces,” according to a May 7 e-mail from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner, who oversees all coalition detainees in Iraq.”The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities,” Gardner wrote to AP International Editor John Daniszewski.

Not a word about the Pentagon’s side of the story:

The Pentagon said on Monday that an Iraqi photographer working for The Associated Press and held by the U.S. military since April was considered a security threat with “strong ties to known insurgents.”Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said there was sufficient evidence to justify the continued detention of Bilal Hussein, 35, who AP said was taken into U.S. military custody on April 12 in the Iraqi city of Ramadi and held since without charge.

He declined to elaborate on what that evidence was.

“All indications that I have received are that Hussein’s detainment indicates that he has strong ties to known insurgents, and that he was doing things, involved in activities that were well outside the scope of what you would expect a journalist to be doing in that country,” he said.

In three separate “independent objective reviews,” Whitman told reporters, “it was determined that Hussein was a security threat and recommended his continued detention.”

Instead, the latest A(w/t)P report quotes blind Bilal Hussein sympathizers in the press:

Suki Dardarian, deputy managing editor of The Seattle Times and outgoing president of the APME, said what’s happened with Hussein could have a chilling effect on the work of other journalists. Hussein’s detention has virtually halted the production of photographs from the dangerous region in which Hussein worked, Daniszewski said.

Well, if it means an end to jihadi propaganda photos like these from Hussein, then good:

One editor compared the Pentagon to Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime:

David Zeeck, president of ASNE and executive editor of The News Tribune, of Tacoma, Wash., said Hussein’s detention was reminiscent of how Saddam Hussein dealt with reporters.”He would hold them incommunicado,”Zeeck said.

This, dear readers, underscores how utterly biased, ignorant, and muddle-headed the vast majority of mainstream journalists are in their coverage of the war on terror. These people see no difference between American troops detaining a suspect captured on the battlefield in the company of an alleged top al Qaeda leader in wartime and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein repressing civilian journalists in peacetime.

Isn’t it possible that Bilal Hussein is coughing up valuable information about insurgent associates involved in kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces? Isn’t it possible that Hussein is providing ongoing intelligence that may be saving both American and Iraqi lives? Isn’t it possible that the troops on the ground who captured Hussein in an apartment with bomb-making materials have better judgement about his security risk than A(w/t)P execs a world away?

The A(w/t)P and its minions refuse to entertain the possibilities. They’re too busy maligning our troops and our military leaders as Saddam-esque tyrants and moaning about how the lack of new terrorist propaganda photos is having a “chilling effect” on journalism.

I doubt the family of Salvatore Santoro shares the A(w/t)P’s alarm and despair.

***

Reader Michael V. points out a new revelation in the A(w/t)P story that I meant to note:

I noticed this in the AP article about Bilal Hussein:

“The military has said Hussein was in the company of two alleged insurgents. Daniszewski said that when the news cooperative pressed for further details, the best it could learn was that Hussein was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of two journalists by insurgents in Ramadi. However, Daniszewski said the two journalists were asked by AP about the incident and that they recalled Hussein as a”hero”who helped evacuate them from harm’s way.”

The obvious question here is WHO are these two journalists?

***

Islam’s Useful Idiots — Liberal news media stands up for Muslim Brotherhood

Islam’s Useful Idiots
October 23rd, 2006

The international press cried foul on October 19 after the U.S. denied a visa to a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader. NewsweekReutersABC News, The National Interest and other media complained that the “moderate” Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) founder Kamal Helbawy was barred from appearing at New York University’s Center for Law and Security. The U.S. also barred entry to Egyptian doctor and MB “guidance counsel” Abd El Monem Abo El Fotouh, who was scheduled to speak in the same discussion on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Helbawy claims to be “moderate.” The U.S. should not prevent “moderates from talking and discussing,” Helbawy stated after being pulled off his flight. El Fotouh is purportedly also temperate.

“At the end of the day, [Islam and the West] have a set of common humanist values: justice, freedom, human rights and democracy,”

he told The Economist in September 2003. Arabists consider El Fotouh “one of the brightest stars”  of the MB’s so-called “middle generation.”

The Department of Homeland Security didn’t explain their actions. One can only surmise—and applaud. Consider:

• In 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair denounced suicide bombings everywhere-even in Israel. “Well he is wrong,” Helbawy replied. “He is not a Mufti,”  he told the Jamestown Foundation. In the same interview, Helbawy blamed “[T]he events in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine” as “a factor” behind the July 7, 2005 London bombings-along with U.K. participation in Iraq and its “policy toward the issue of Palestine.” 

• “[T]he United States … invaded Iraq to divide Muslims,” El Fotouh told  the New York Times on August 3, 2006. It was “better to support a Hezbollah-Iranian agenda than an ‘American-Zionist’ one,” he added.

• Islam’s war against Israel is not “a conflict of borders and land only. It is not even a conflict over human ideology and not over peace,” Helbawy told  a December 1992 Muslim Arab Youth Association gathering, taped by terror expert Steve Emerson. “[I]t is an absolute clash of civilizations, between truth and falsehood. Between two conducts-one satanic, headed by Jews and their co-conspirators-and the other is religious, carried by Hamas, and the Islamic movement in particular and the Islamic people….” Muslims should never befriend “Jews and Christians,” who are only “allies to each other,” he warned.

• Islamic scholars had performed their “basic religious duty”  in calling on Muslims to join jihad against the U.S., El Fotouh stated in March 2003. Al Azhar had rightly urged them to “defend themselves and their faith” against an “enemy” stepping “on Muslims’ land”—which the scholars called “a new Crusader battle targeting our land, honour, faith and nation.” Al Azhar’s decree, El Fotouh stated, was “no more than an attempt on the part of its scholars to fulfill their duty before God.” The U.S. had “plans to enslave the Arab nation,” he also claimed.

The New York Post Counterterrorismblog.org  and New York Sun likewise saw through the MB facade.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood describes itself as a political and social revolutionary organization, the group is widely (and correctly) recognized as the parent of most Islamic terror  groups. Indeed, U.S. authorities most worry about the MB defense of “the use of violence against civilians,” said security and terrorism adviser Juan Zarate recently.

Founded in March 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, the MB rejected the West and sought return to the “original Islam.” Its philosophical and ideological ideas should cause even academics serious concern. The recently exposed 1982 “Muslim Brotherhood ‘Project’ orders members worldwide

“To channel thought, education and action in order to establish an Islamic power [government] on the earth.”

Today, the MB still calls for “Building the Muslim state…Building the Khilafa…Mastering the world with Islam.”  

MB spiritual leader Yusuf Qaradawi, an Egyptian member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, likewise calls for an Islamic conquest of Europe (starting with Rome and Italy). “[T]he patch of the Muslim state will expand to cover the whole earth….,”  he writes. Qaradawi also praises suicide bombing readily accepts wife beating and calls upon Muslim women to detonate themselves in order to kill Jews.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, on Oct. 19, the Open Forum on The Muslim Brotherhood nevertheless praised Helbawy and El Fotouh as peaceful moderates, and their organization as a peaceful, just, and moderating influence on Middle East and global politics. Their absence was yet another strike against the Bush administration, executive director Karen Greenberg stated. “This center tries to educate one another, policy makers and the public,” she added—a job  Greenberg apparently considers more important than public security.

Former Sunday Times senior reporter Nick Fielding then took the floor. He denied the risks the MB poses to the West. Helbawy is “a wonderful human being,” he stated, adding that the 2005 election of 22 Muslim Brothers to Egypt’s parliament-and the Hamas victory in the January 2006 Palestinian Authority votewere cause for celebration. Fielding objected only to “the reward” Muslims received for their free elections-”the silence of the U.S. State Department in the face of Egyptian government abuse,” and the U.S. and international boycott of the Hamas-controlled PA.

The MB is “reformist,” according to Fielding. It provides “the best possibility in the Middle East of leaders who can make deals and stick to them,” he stated, noting their solid political backing in Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria Kuwait and Yemen. The MB, he insisted, has “for the past 30 years…[consistently] followed a non violent” path. The brotherhood’s only problem, Fielding claimed, is its ostracization by such analysts as “The Counterterrorism blog,”  whose data he derided.

True democracy would never take root in the Middle East, Fielding predicted. It’s “about as likely as Shari’a being adopted in Washington D.C.,” he joked.

Despite Islam’s inherently political nature—“Muslims want Islam to be a central part of life,” Fielding stated-he dismissed concerns over calls for a global Islamic caliphate. “We shouldn’t terrify ourselves with this rather silly point,” he said. “Refusing to recognize state Shar’ia law in Islamic [nations]” is what has caused intensifying radicalism. “Countering the spread of jihadist organizations” requires that the West “address the grievancesmany of them legitimate-of the jihadist movement,” Fielding concluded.

Sharing Fielding’s view is Nixon Center Senior Fellow and ABC news consultant Alexis Debat—a former adviser to the French transatlantic defense minister. “Let’s stop hyperventilating about the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “I hear the same things in a church as I hear in a mosque.” Debat concluded, “Islam is a source of enlightenment.”

Debat also recognized Islam’s centrality—as both the Middle East’s “primary source of political action” and “universal”—that is, encompassing every aspect of life. “We don’t know where it starts and where it ends,” he observed. Strangely, however, Debat denied that the Muslim Brotherhood is “religious.” It’s chiefly a “political movement, not a party,”—a “liberation” movement. He admired the group’s “highly pragmatic” approach to becoming “the leader in Egypt.”

Islamist cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, Debat allowed, “is the single most influential Islamic thinker today.” He did not condemn Qaradawi’s views. Almost without missing a beat, Debat maintained that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “progressive” movement, whose ultimate goal “is a better, more just society.” He added, “Social justice is the cornerstone of Islam.”

Regarding the MB vision of a global Islamic caliphate, Debat insisted this “is completely absent from Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric,” even that of Qaradawi.

“I guarantee you that no serious official of the Egyptian ikhwan today would even mention the Caliphate as a program,”

he reiterated in a follow-up email, neglecting the worldwide Brotherhood, which claims membership in more than 70 countries.

Despite his assurances, Debat opened with a troubling disclaimer: He admitted “failing to understand the Middle East.” His five-year “journey to understand the Muslim Brotherhood … will be lifelong,” Debat stated. And “there’s a limit to what we [Westerners] can understand about the Middle East,” he said.

Thank goodness Homeland Security does not take advice from those who admit their failure to understand the Middle East, believe Westerners incapable of comprehending it—and with such an obvious disregard for established facts.

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