Front Page, February 18, 2013, by Daniel Greenfield:
In 1853, the British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton visited Mecca. Since Mecca was and is off limits to non-Muslims on pain of death, Burton passed himself off as a Muslim by undergoing circumcision and disguising himself as a Pashtun. “Nothing could save a European detected by the populace, or one who after pilgrimage declared himself an unbeliever,” Burton wrote.
Three hundred and fifty years earlier, the Italian adventurer Ludovico di Varthema became the first non-Muslim to enter Mecca since the Muslim conquest. Ludovico had enlisted as a mercenary and succeeded in passing as a Mamluk, one of the white slave soldiers of the Sultanate, who had been converted to Islam. Ludovico was eventually caught out as a Christian, but escaped after a love affair with one of the Sultan’s wives.
Other Christians had visited Mecca, but always disguised as Muslims. The British cabin boy Joseph Pitts, captured by Muslim slavers and forcibly converted to Islam, visited Mecca, before managing to return home and return to his religion. Similar accounts were told by other European Christian slaves.
In 1979, hundreds of Islamists using weapons smuggled in a coffin seized the Grand Mosque of Mecca. The Saudi military, commanded by the sons of important men, rather than by competent men, proved absolutely hopeless in fighting them. So instead they turned to the French.
The French commandos of GIGN were expert at dealing with terrorist crises, but they were not Muslim and so could not be allowed into Mecca. The solution was simple. The Frenchmen underwent a rapid conversion to Islam and the siege of the Great Mosque commenced. The conversion did not take hold, but the principle remained. An infidel could not enter Mecca, even to save the House of Saud.
During his time as the CIA Station Chief in Saudi Arabia, John Brennan spoke of marveling “at the majesty of the Hajj and the devotion of those who fulfilled their duty as Muslims by making that pilgrimage.” If Brennan did indeed visit Mecca during the Hajj, then he could have only done it by converting to Islam, like John Pitts, or pretending to have done so, like the GIGN commandos.
John Guandolo, a former FBI agent and Islam expert, has alleged that the conversion took place during Brennan’s time in Saudi Arabia. And he also alleges that this conversion has been confirmed by other American officials who were in Saudi Arabia at the time. These allegations are especially explosive as Brennan has moved up through the ranks to become Obama’s nominee to head the CIA.
Guandolo’s allegation goes beyond the question of religion. Rather he alleges that the conversion was part of an espionage recruitment process. In an interview with Tom Trento of The United West, he said, “Mr. Brennan did convert to Islam when he served in a senior official capacity in Saudi Arabia. His conversion to Islam was the culmination of a counter-intelligence operation against him to recruit him.”
The Soviet Union recruited spies by convincing them of the virtues of Communism. Saudi Arabia might well recruit its infidel agents by convincing them of the worth of Islam. There is of course no way to know what is in Brennan’s heart. But while we may not know what Brennan believes, as John Guandolo has pointed out, we do know what he has done.
Brennan’s supposed conversion to Islam was only the third of two other points that the former FBI agent argued make him unfit for duty. The first is that Brennan has developed links with the Muslim Brotherhood and that he has brought “known leaders of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood into the government in positions to advise the US Government on counterterrorism strategy as well as the overall quote unquote War on Terror.” And the second is that Brennan reduces the War on Terror to Al Qaeda.
While Brennan did not innovate either of these two approaches, if he was indeed recruited by the Saudis, then they may be more than mere cluelessness. It’s not unusual for military and intelligence officials to visit Saudi Arabia and then leave it repeating the classic Saudi talking points about Islam as a stabilizing influence on the region and Israel as a destabilizing influence.
There are countless generals and diplomats who robotically insist that Bin Laden must not be referred to as a Muslim to diminish his influence and that the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamists are the only hope for countering the violent Islamism of Al Qaeda. The fundamental question is whether such disinformation is spread out of ignorance, or out of knowledge.
That is the final question that Guandolo raises about John Brennan. “The fact that foreign intelligence service operatives recruited Mr. Brennan when he was in a very sensitive and senior US Government position in a foreign country means that he is either a traitor, which I’m not saying, but that’s one of the options, and he did this all unwillingly and unknowingly ,or he did this unwittingly, which means that he is naive and does not have the ability to discern, to understand how to walk in those environments, which makes him completely unfit to be the Director of Central Intelligence.”
What is problematic in a general or a senator is even more troubling in the Director of the CIA. Military men are expected to be somewhat direct and take things as they are. But the director of an intelligence agency is expected to see threats where no one else does, to test the waters and look past the obvious. And if he cannot do that, then he is simply not qualified. And that is the larger point that John Guandolo makes.
Whether or not Brennan had a moment of submission on the road to Mecca or whether he is simply acting as a useful idiot for the people who perpetrated the attacks of September 11, he is not qualified to be the point man in the War on Terror. As the military side of the war draws to a close with a defeat in Afghanistan, the Central Intelligence Agency will take on a greater degree of importance in the fight against Islamic terrorism.
During the Cold War, the CIA was often infiltrated by the KGB, nullifying America’s intelligence capabilities in the Cold War. It would be a terrible shame if history repeated itself with Islam in the War on Terror.
Much more on John Brennan in CJR archives