Pay Attention! While Primaries Distract, Obama Shreds Constitutional Governance

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But understand: Obama is reduced to this bullying because the JCPOA is not a treaty and there is no statute that enforces its terms. He is attempting to rule by fiat backed by raw power, not law.

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The more significant point, though, is the supplanting of our constitutional order of popular American sovereignty, federalism, and separation of powers. Obama’s Iran deal is the imposition of unilateral executive rule, against the popular will, supported by vaporous international arrangements rubber-stamped by the UN Security Council and reliant not on law but on executive intimidation of the states.

PJ MEDIA, BY ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, APRIL 19, 2016:

While all eyes are on both parties’ primaries, constitutional governance — liberty, popular sovereignty, and state power, those vital things the Constitution is supposed to shield from encroachment by the central government — continues to be shredded.

Two cases in point: President Obama’s pressure on the states to drop sanctions against Iran, and his continuing scheme to dictate immigration law unilaterally.

The invaluable Omri Ceren (citing a Bloomberg View report) alerts us that the State Department has sent monitory letters to the governors of all fifty states “suggesting” that they review any sanctions imposed against Iran. Over half the states have such sanctions, targeting not only Iran’s nuclear work but the regime’s other weapons work (e.g., ballistic missiles), terror promotion, human rights abuses, detention of Americans, etc.

Explains Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:

[These sanctions] are an essential part of the non-nuclear sanctions architecture designed to both deter Iranian illicit behavior and to safeguard pension funds from the risk associated with entering Iran’s economy.

Alas, any counter-Iranian measure with real teeth is certain to fly in the face of President Obama’s Iran deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. As I’ve recently recounted, the text of the JCPOA expressly indulges Iran’s position that it will “cease performing [its] commitments” under the deal if it deems the sanctions to have been “reinstated in whole of part.” That threat should only relate to sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, but — as the Obama administration well knew — many of the sanctions against significant Iranian entities (e.g., the National Iranian Oil Company and Bank Melli) are based on activities in addition to support for the nuclear program.

Moreover, Iran has publicly announced that it interprets the JCPOA as a sweeping eradication of sanctions related both to various non-nuclear activities (e.g., other weapons and ballistic missiles) and to sectors of its economy sanctioned due to activities beyond support for the nuclear program.

Consequently, because of Obama’s obvious desperation for a deal, coupled with the incompetent manner (or, more cynically, the intentionally ambiguous manner) in which the deal is drafted, Obama has created the following situation:

(a) Iran — having already pocketed major concessions — continually threatens to walk away unless the United States agrees to additional sanctions relief.(b) If it is to accommodate the mullahs, as Obama is hard-wired to do, the administration must lean on the relevant actors to relax sanctions even if they are based on non-nuclear activities (e.g., terrorism or ballistic missiles).

Against that backdrop, the JCPOA also purports to oblige the federal government to use:

… “all available authorities [to eliminate any] law at the state or local level … [that] is preventing the implementation of sanctions lifting as specified in this JCPOA[.]”

Obama further explicitly commits in the JCPOA:

The United States will actively encourage officials at the state or local level to take into account the changes in the U.S. policy reflected in the lifting of sanctions under this JCPOA and to refrain from actions inconsistent with this change in policy. (Emphasis added)

Notice anything odd?

This is a foreign relations matter. So why does the Iran deal commit Washington merely to “encourage” and otherwise try to persuade state and local officials to honor the deal’s terms? Why not simply direct them to do so?

Because, for all its bluster about domestic and international law, the administration knows this deal has no legal standing.

Plainly, the president is trying to muscle his way through the inconvenience that the JCPOA is merely an executive agreement. It is not a legally enforceable treaty, nor is it supported by any legislation that would bind the states.

Obama is willing it to work through sheer extra-legal executive power.

Under the Constitution, the federal government has the power to bind the states on matters over which the Constitution gives Washington control, provided that the federal government does this binding in a constitutionally lawful manner.

It is freely conceded that the conduct of foreign relations and the regulation of international commerce are matters over which the Constitution grants the federal government supremacy. Yet, there are only two constitutionally lawful ways of binding the states: a ratified treaty, and/or a properly enacted congressional statute.

A mere executive agreement with the government of a second country (or multiple countries) that the president declines to submit to the Senate as a treaty, and that is not otherwise given legal teeth by Congress, is not enforceable against the states. Period.

This explains why the language of the JCPOA and the State Department’s letter to the states is vaguely extortionate rather than legally direct: Obama will “actively encourage” states and municipalities; the State Department “would urge [the state] to consider,” etc. The administration is pressuring the states, exploiting the brute fact that states know crossing the administration is fraught with risk. States, after all, depend on various federal funding streams and live in constant fear that the most politicized Justice Department in U.S. history will find some pretext or other to investigate them.

But understand: Obama is reduced to this bullying because the JCPOA is not a treaty and there is no statute that enforces its terms. He is attempting to rule by fiat backed by raw power, not law.

And, characteristically, his administration is trying to pull this off by contorting the facts.

The State Department letter “urges” the states to reconsider their sanctions because, it assures them, “the JCPOA … verifiably ensures that Iran’s nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful.” This is false.

The Iran deal is not verifiable; it thus cannot and does not assure that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. Even by the deal’s own terms, Iran gets an industrial-size nuclear program that will be able to weaponize nuclear power with the flip of a switch — or as Obama himself has put it, with “breakout times [that] would have shrunk almost down to zero” — in a little over a decade (if not way before).

Moreover, even if the Iran deal had been an enforceable ratified treaty rather than a non-binding executive agreement, it was (as noted above) only supposed to relate to Iran’s nuclear program. By contrast, state sanctions against Iran (like federal sanctions) are not narrowly targeted at nukes; they relate to the panoply of the mullahs’ rogue activities in the areas of weapons and terrorism.

The State Department’s letter to the states implies that Obama’s purported achievement of a deal that renders Iran’s nuclear program permanently peaceful “addresses the underlying concerns” that caused the states to enact sanctions. Also false: far from addressing those concerns, the JCPOA exacerbates themIt provides lavish funds for Iran’s terror promotion and eases weapons sanctions outside the nuclear sphere. Hence, Iran’s brash testing of ballistic missiles — festooned with the words “Israel must be wiped out” written in Hebrew — in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolution 2231, which went into effect the very day the JCPOA was formally implemented.

After over seven Obama years, such legerdemain is to be expected. The more significant point, though, is the supplanting of our constitutional order of popular American sovereignty, federalism, and separation of powers. Obama’s Iran deal is the imposition of unilateral executive rule, against the popular will, supported by vaporous international arrangements rubber-stamped by the UN Security Council and reliant not on law but on executive intimidation of the states.

What Obama is attempting with respect to the Iran deal is another iteration of the authoritarian, anti-constitutional approach he has followed in the context of immigration policy — the crux of United States v. Texas, the case argued before the Supreme Court Monday (and in which a decision is expected at the end of the Court’s term in late June).

Under a series of Supreme Court precedents (which, I have argued, improperlyusurped state authority over immigration enforcement), it has been held that immigration enforcement is primarily a federal responsibility. Therefore, the legal doctrine of preemption is applied: any state law that contravenes federal law is void — i.e., states may regulate only insofar as regulations are consistent with federal law.

I highlight the word “law” to hone in on how Obama has perverted the principles of preemption.

As I explained in my 2014 book Faithless Execution, the president takes two legally untenable positions on illegal immigration:

(a) That the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion empowers him to choose which laws he will enforce, and(b) That if he chooses not to enforce laws in an area, like immigration, where the courts say federal law preempts state law, then state enforcement of congressional law is preempted by this executive branch non-enforcement policy.

Obama’s first position is perverse. A president’s chief constitutional duty is to see that the laws are faithfully executed. “Prosecutorial discretion” is just a resource-allocation doctrine specific to criminal law enforcement. Recognizing that law-enforcement resources are finite, it gives the executive branch authority to decide which individual cases merit prosecution. It is not a sweeping license to, in effect, repeal congressional statutes by not enforcing them across-the-board.

If it were? That would nullify the president’s obligation to execute the laws faithfully — in effect making him the law-giver rather than the law-enforcer.

The president’s second position is also perverse: only federal law, adopted under the constitutionally prescribed legislative procedures, can preempt state law. When the president declines to enforce the law, he undermines rather than affirms the congressional laws that preempt the states.

Presidential policy preferences, moreover, are not legally binding on Congress, the states, or the people. Preemption is a doctrine of law, not policy. At the federal level, only Congress can make law. Consequently, the president lacks Congress’s limited constitutional authority to preempt the states.

Thus, Obama is claiming what is really dictatorial power masquerading as preemption law. Laid bare, he asserts the unilateral power to forbid states from enforcing immigration laws duly enacted by Congress — laws that are essential to the security and stability, and thus to the very sovereignty, of the states.

The high-stakes contests for the presidential nominations of both major political parties are, of course, extremely important. But they are less important than the damage daily being done to our governing system: the “fundamental transformation” of the Constitution’s limited presidency into something more like the raw-power autocracy the framers feared.

Willful Blindness and Our Saudi ‘Friends’

Anwar al-Awlaki in October 2008 (Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Anwar al-Awlaki in October 2008 (Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0)

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, April 16, 2016:

For many years, I was reluctant to write a memoir of my experience leading the investigation and prosecution of the jihadists against whom we are still at war over 20 years later. For one thing, while an exhilarating experience for a trial lawyer, it was also a very hard time for my family, for obvious reasons. Also, with all the tough judgment calls we had to make, we inevitably made some mistakes — “we” very much including me. A triumphant outcome has a pleasant way of bleaching away any memory of errors; to write honestly about the case would mean revisiting them. Who needed that?

And about that triumph: I had, and have, a gnawing sense that we failed. Yes, the conviction of the Blind Sheikh and his henchmen was a great law-enforcement success. Throughout the long trial and in the years that followed, though, I came to appreciate that national security is principally about keeping Americans safe, not winning court cases. Sure, winning in this instance meant justice was done and some terrorists were incarcerated. How safe, though, had we really kept Americans?

For all the effort and expense, the number of jihadists neutralized was negligible compared to the overall threat. The attacks kept coming, as one might expect when one side detonates bombs and the other responds with subpoenas. As the years passed, the tally of casualties far outstripped that of convicted terrorists. When 9/11 finally happened, killing nearly 3,000 of our fellow Americans, al-Qaeda credited none other than the Blind Sheikh with issuing the fatwa — the sharia edict — that authorized the attack. We had imprisoned him, but we had not stopped him.

That is mainly why I finally wrote the memoir in 2008. I called it Willful Blindness . . . and not just because my infamous defendant was both blind and willful. American counterterrorism, even seven years after 9/11 (and fully 15 years after the jihadists declared war by bombing the World Trade Center), had bored its head ever deeper in the sand. It consciously avoided the central truths driving the terrorist threat against the United States.

The most significant of these is that violent jihadism is the inexorable result of the vibrance in Islam of sharia supremacism — a scripturally-rooted summons to Muslims to strive for conquest over infidels until Allah’s law (sharia) is established everywhere on earth.

This ideology — also referred to as “Islamism,” “Islamic supremacism,” “radical Islam,” “political Islam,” and other descriptors that endeavor to distinguish it from Islam (and to imply that such a distinction should be drawn) — is not the only way of interpreting Islam. Indeed, it is rejected by millions of Muslims. The conquest for which it strives, moreover, is not necessarily to be achieved by violence. Sharia supremacism is, nevertheless, a mainstream interpretation of Islam. Inevitably, it leads some believers to carry out jihadist violence, and an even greater number of believers to support the jihadists’ objectives, if not their methods.

Since 1993, the bipartisan American ruling class, throughout administrations of both parties, has refused to acknowledge, much less grapple with, this central truth of the threat we face. It has insisted, against fact and reason, that Islam is a monolithic “religion of peace,” and therefore that there can be no causal connection between Islamic doctrine and terrorism committed by Muslims. It has fraudulently maintained that jihadist violence is not jihadist at all — after all, we are to understand jihad (notwithstanding its roots as a belligerent concept, as holy war to establish sharia) to be a noble internal struggle to become a better person, to vanquish corruption, and the like. Terrorist attacks must be airbrushed into “violent extremism,” shorn of any ideological component — as if the killing were wanton, not purposeful. The fact that the attacks are so ubiquitously committed by Muslims (who explicitly cite scriptural chapter and verse to justify themselves), is to be ignored — as if all religions and ideologies were equally prone to inspire mass-murder attacks if believed too fervently.

This deceit at the core of American counterterrorism efforts has led seamlessly to other frauds. Among the most grievous is this one: Saudi Arabia is a key counterterrorism ally of the United States.

This is why it is time — it is long, long past time — for the United States government to come clean with the American people, and with the families of Americans slaughtered on 9/11 by 19 jihadists, 15 of them Saudis. The government must disclose the 28 pages of the 2002 congressional report on the 9/11 attacks that it has shamefully withheld from the public for 14 years. Those pages outline Saudi complicity in the jihad.

It is nothing short of disgraceful that the Bush and Obama administrations, relying on the president’s constitutional authority over foreign intelligence and the conduct of foreign affairs, have concealed these materials. It is equally disgraceful that Congress has indulged this decision in the context of its own fact-finding exercise. This has been done under the pretense that the Saudi government is a stalwart counterterrorism ally of the United States — an absurd proposition that passes the laugh test only if one accepts the even more absurd premise that Islam has nothing to do with jihadist terrorism.

The Saudis are the world’s chief propagator of sharia supremacism, sharia being the law of the Sunni kingdom. In Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, a literalist interpretation of Islam rooted in scripture dating back 1,400 years, is the dominant belief system. For decades, the House of Saud has played a double game with the West: 1) feigning moderation while promoting and internally enforcing this repressive fundamentalism, which brutally discriminates against women, non-Muslims, and Muslim minorities; 2) posturing as a staunch counterterrorism ally while exporting their ideology — and, when called on it, rationalizing either that their ideology does not catalyze jihadism, or that, even if it does, exporting it is necessary to ensure that jihadists do not seize control of the kingdom and its oil wealth — an outcome that, we are warned, would be far worse for the West.

Several Saudi connections to 9/11, as well as our government’s disturbing appearance of not wanting to know the depth of Saudi culpability, have been reported over the years. Let’s look at some of the main ones. Read more…

 

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Washington’s bipartisan insistence that the Saudi regime is a vital counterterrorism ally of the United States is a delusional byproduct of its willful blindness to sharia supremacism — the ideological driver of violent jihadism and the oil-rich kingdom’s most consequential export.

The point of the post-9/11 investigations was to hold every culpable actor and negligent government agency accountable. No American citizen or government official, not even the sitting president, was spared. It is time for Washington to stop running interference for the Saudis while the Saudis run interference for the jihadists. At long last, let’s see the 28 pages.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Also see:

Islam—Facts or Dreams?

WinstonHillsdale Imprimis, by Andrew C. McCarthy, February 2016:

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on February 24, 2016, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C., as part of the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series.

In 1993 I was a seasoned federal prosecutor, but I only knew as much about Islam as the average American with a reasonably good education—which is to say, not much. Consequently, when I was assigned to lead the prosecution of a terrorist cell that had bombed the World Trade Center and was plotting an even more devastating strike—simultaneous attacks on the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the United Nations complex on the East River, and the FBI’s lower Manhattan headquarters—I had no trouble believing what our government was saying: that we should read nothing into the fact that all the men in this terrorist cell were Muslims; that their actions were not representative of any religion or belief system; and that to the extent they were explaining their atrocities by citing Islamic scripture, they were twisting and perverting one of the world’s great religions, a religion that encourages peace.

Unlike commentators and government press secretaries, I had to examine these claims. Prosecutors don’t get to base their cases on assertions. They have to prove things to commonsense Americans who must be satisfied about not only what happened but why it happened before they will convict people of serious crimes. And in examining the claims, I found them false.

One of the first things I learned concerned the leader of the terror cell, Omar Abdel Rahman, infamously known as the Blind Sheikh. Our government was portraying him as a wanton killer who was lying about Islam by preaching that it summoned Muslims to jihad or holy war. Far from a lunatic, however, he turned out to be a globally renowned scholar—a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence who graduated from al-Azhar University in Cairo, the seat of Sunni Islamic learning for over a millennium. His area of academic expertise was sharia—Islamic law.

I immediately began to wonder why American officials from President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno on down, officials who had no background in Muslim doctrine and culture, believed they knew more about Islam than the Blind Sheikh. Then something else dawned on me: the Blind Sheikh was not only blind; he was beset by several other medical handicaps. That seemed relevant. After all, terrorism is hard work. Here was a man incapable of doing anything that would be useful to a terrorist organization—he couldn’t build a bomb, hijack a plane, or carry out an assassination. Yet he was the unquestioned leader of the terror cell. Was this because there was more to his interpretation of Islamic doctrine than our government was conceding?

Defendants do not have to testify at criminal trials, but they have a right to testify if they choose to—so I had to prepare for the possibility. Raised an Irish Catholic in the Bronx, I was not foolish enough to believe I could win an argument over Muslim theology with a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence. But I did think that if what we were saying as a government was true—that he was perverting Islam—then there must be two or three places where I could nail him by saying, “You told your followers X, but the doctrine clearly says Y.” So my colleagues and I pored over the Blind Sheikh’s many writings. And what we found was alarming: whenever he quoted the Koran or other sources of Islamic scripture, he quoted them accurately.

Now, you might be able to argue that he took scripture out of context or gave an incomplete account of it. In my subsequent years of studying Islam, I’ve learned that this is not a particularly persuasive argument. But even if one concedes for the purposes of discussion that it’s a colorable claim, the inconvenient fact remains: Abdel Rahman was not lying about Islam.

When he said the scriptures command that Muslims strike terror into the hearts of Islam’s enemies, the scriptures backed him up.

When he said Allah enjoined all Muslims to wage jihad until Islamic law was established throughout the world, the scriptures backed him up.

When he said Islam directed Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as their friends, the scriptures backed him up.

You could counter that there are other ways of construing the scriptures. You could contend that these exhortations to violence and hatred should be “contextualized”—i.e., that they were only meant for their time and place in the seventh century.  Again, I would caution that there are compelling arguments against this manner of interpreting Islamic scripture. The point, however, is that what you’d be arguing is an interpretation.

The fact that there are multiple ways of construing Islam hardly makes the Blind Sheikh’s literal construction wrong. The blunt fact of the matter is that, in this contest of competing interpretations, it is the jihadists who seem to be making sense because they have the words of scripture on their side—it is the others who seem to be dancing on the head of a pin. For our present purposes, however, the fact is that the Blind Sheikh’s summons to jihad was rooted in a coherent interpretation of Islamic doctrine. He was not perverting Islam—he was, if anything, shining a light on the need to reform it.

Another point, obvious but inconvenient, is that Islam is not a religion of peace. There are ways of interpreting Islam that could make it something other than a call to war. But even these benign constructions do not make it a call to peace. Verses such as “Fight those who believe not in Allah,” and “Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war,” are not peaceful injunctions, no matter how one contextualizes.

Another disturbing aspect of the trial against the Blind Sheikh and his fellow jihadists was the character witnesses who testified for the defense. Most of these people were moderate, peaceful Muslim Americans who would no more commit terrorist acts than the rest of us. But when questions about Islamic doctrine would come up—“What does jihad mean?” “What is sharia?” “How might sharia apply to a certain situation?”—these moderate, peaceful Muslims explained that they were not competent to say. In other words, for the answers, you’d have to turn to Islamic scholars like the Blind Sheikh.

Now, understand: there was no doubt what the Blind Sheikh was on trial for. And there was no doubt that he was a terrorist—after all, he bragged about it. But that did not disqualify him, in the minds of these moderate, peaceful Muslims, from rendering authoritative opinions on the meaning of the core tenets of their religion. No one was saying that they would follow the Blind Sheikh into terrorism—but no one was discrediting his status either.

Although this came as a revelation to me, it should not have. After all, it is not as if Western civilization had no experience dealing with Islamic supremacism—what today we call “Islamist” ideology, the belief that sharia must govern society. Winston Churchill, for one, had encountered it as a young man serving in the British army, both in the border region between modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the Sudan—places that are still cauldrons of Islamist terror. Ever the perceptive observer, Churchill wrote:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. . . . Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Habitually, I distinguish between Islam and Muslims. It is objectively important to do so, but I also have a personal reason: when I began working on national security cases, the Muslims I first encountered were not terrorists. To the contrary, they were pro-American patriots who helped us infiltrate terror cells, disrupt mass-murder plots, and gather the evidence needed to convict jihadists. We have an obligation to our national security to understand our enemies; but we also have an obligation to our principles not to convict by association—not to confound our Islamist enemies with our Muslim allies and fellow citizens. Churchill appreciated this distinction. “Individual Moslems,” he stressed, “may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen.” The problem was not the people, he concluded. It was the doctrine.

What about Islamic law? On this topic, it is useful to turn to Robert Jackson, a giant figure in American law and politics—FDR’s attorney general, justice of the Supreme Court, and chief prosecutor of the war crimes trials at Nuremberg. In 1955, Justice Jackson penned the foreword to a book called Law in the Middle East. Unlike today’s government officials, Justice Jackson thought sharia was a subject worthy of close study.  And here is what he concluded:

In any broad sense, Islamic law offers the American lawyer a study in dramatic contrasts. Even casual acquaintance and superficial knowledge—all that most of us at bench or bar will be able to acquire—reveal that its striking features relative to our law are not likenesses but inconsistencies, not similarities but contrarieties. In its source, its scope and its sanctions, the law of the Middle East is the antithesis of Western law.

Contrast this with the constitution that the U.S. government helped write for post-Taliban Afghanistan, which showed no awareness of the opposition of Islamic and Western law. That constitution contains soaring tropes about human rights, yet it makes Islam the state religion and sharia a principal source of law—and under it, Muslim converts to Christianity have been subjected to capital trials for apostasy.

Sharia rejects freedom of speech as much as freedom of religion. It rejects the idea of equal rights between men and women as much as between Muslim and non-Muslim. It brooks no separation between spiritual life and civil society. It is a comprehensive framework for human life, dictating matters of government, economy, and combat, along with personal behavior such as contact between the sexes and personal hygiene. Sharia aims to rule both believers and non-believers, and it affirmatively sanctions jihad in order to do so.

Even if this is not the only construction of Islam, it is absurd to claim—as President Obama did during his recent visit to a mosque in Baltimore—that it is not a mainstream interpretation. In fact, it is the mainstream interpretation in many parts of the world. Last year, Americans were horrified by the beheadings of three Western journalists by ISIS. American and European politicians could not get to microphones fast enough to insist that these decapitations had nothing to do with Islam. Yet within the same time frame, the government of Saudi Arabia beheaded eight people for various violations of sharia—the law that governs Saudi Arabia.

Three weeks before Christmas, a jihadist couple—an American citizen, the son of Pakistani immigrants, and his Pakistani wife who had been welcomed into our country on a fiancée visa—carried out a jihadist attack in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people. Our government, as with the case in Fort Hood—where a jihadist who had infiltrated the Army killed 13 innocents, mostly fellow soldiers—resisted calling the atrocity a “terrorist attack.” Why? Our investigators are good at what they do, and our top officials may be ideological, but they are not stupid. Why is it that they can’t say two plus two equals four when Islam is involved?

The reason is simple: stubbornly unwilling to deal with the reality of Islam, our leaders have constructed an Islam of their very own. This triumph of willful blindness and political correctness over common sense was best illustrated by former British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith when she described terrorism as “anti-Islamic activity.” In other words, the savagery is not merely unrelated to Islam; it becomes, by dint of its being inconsistent with a “religion of peace,”contrary to Islam. This explains our government’s handwringing over “radicalization”: we are supposed to wonder why young Muslims spontaneously become violent radicals—as if there is no belief system involved.

This is political correctness on steroids, and it has dangerous policy implications. Consider the inability of government officials to call a mass-murder attack by Muslims a terrorist attack unless and until the police uncover evidence proving that the mass murderers have some tie to a designated terrorist group, such as ISIS or al Qaeda. It is rare for such evidence to be uncovered early in an investigation—and as a matter of fact, such evidence often does not exist. Terrorist recruits already share the same ideology as these groups: the goal of imposing sharia. All they need in order to execute terrorist attacks is paramilitary training, which is readily available in more places than just Syria.

The dangerous flipside to our government’s insistence on making up its own version of Islam is that anyone who is publicly associated with Islam must be deemed peaceful. This is how we fall into the trap of allowing the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential Islamic supremacist organization, to infiltrate policy-making organs of the U.S. government, not to mention our schools, our prisons, and other institutions. The federal government, particularly under the Obama administration, acknowledges the Brotherhood as an Islamic organization—notwithstanding the ham-handed attempt by the intelligence community a few years back to rebrand it as “largely secular”—thereby giving it a clean bill of health. This despite the fact that Hamas is the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, that the Brotherhood has a long history of terrorist violence, and that major Brotherhood figures have gone on to play leading roles in terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda.

To quote Churchill again:  “Facts are better than dreams.” In the real world, we must deal with the facts of Islamic supremacism, because its jihadist legions have every intention of dealing with us. But we can only defeat them if we resolve to see them for what they are.

Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. A graduate of Columbia College, he received his J.D. at New York Law School. For 18 years, he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, and from 1993-95 he led the terrorism prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 others in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a plot to bomb New York City landmarks. Following the 9/11 attacks, he supervised the Justice Department’s command post near Ground Zero. He has also served as a Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and an adjunct professor at Fordham University’s School of Law and New York Law School. He writes widely for newspapers and journals including National Review, PJ Media, and The New Criterion, and is the author of several books, including Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad and Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotages America.

Huma Abedin and the Tangled Clinton Web

t-huma-abedin-anthony-weiner.sized-940x350xcPJ Media, by Andrew McCarthy, Feb. 12 2016:

Almost a month ago, Fox News reported that the FBI’s investigation of possible national security violations stemming from Hillary Clinton’s private email system had expanded to include a corruption angle, centered on the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the possibility that Foundation donors received favorable government treatment during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

The Fox report prompted indignant denials from Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign that there had been any broadening of the probe. Yet, the government is not required to disclose the course of its investigation publicly, much less to its subjects. And now, there are additional indications that the government is indeed scrutinizing the cozy relations the State Department enjoyed during Secretary Hillary Clinton’s tenure with both the Clinton Foundation and a Clinton-connected consulting firm called Teneo.

Last autumn, according to the Washington Post, the State Department’s inspector general (IG) issued subpoenas to the Clinton Foundation. The IG’s office has authority to investigate wrongdoing at the Department, including criminal wrongdoing. Its conclusions may be referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution, and may also result in other forms of disciplinary action against government officials found to have committed misconduct. The subpoenas served on the Clinton Foundation reportedly focused on two areas of inquiry: (a) Clinton Foundation projects that may have required federal government approval during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state; and (b) Clinton Foundation records pertaining to the employment of Huma Abedin.

Ms. Abedin, a longtime Clinton confidante, served as Secretary Clinton’s deputy chief-of-staff at the State Department and is now vice chairwoman of Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign for the presidency.

For about a half-year toward the end of Abedin’s tenure at the State Department, which coincided with with Secretary Clinton’s own departure from the State Department in February 2013, Abedin was given a highly unusual and ethically dubious arrangement: She was permitted to work simultaneously for the State Department, Teneo, the Clinton Foundation, and even in a personal capacity for Mrs. Clinton – in order to manage the secretary’s transition back to the private sector (notwithstanding that Mrs. Clinton had a job waiting for her at the lavishly funded Clinton Foundation, from which she would oversee her 2016 campaign-in-waiting).

Ordered Liberty readers will recall that Ms. Abedin has been the subject of controversy. Several years ago, five House conservatives asked State’s IG to investigate how Abedin managed to receive a security clearance despite extensive family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and to an al Qaeda financier whose “charity” was designated a terrorist organization by the government. At the time, senior Republicans attacked the House conservatives, despite the fact that the latter were not alleging any wrongdoing on Abedin’s part – they were merel and sensibly questioning the propriety of the government’s granting a security clearance to someone on Abedin’s background. In light of new revelations in the Clinton email scandal, which place Abedin in the center of the mishandling of classified information through Mrs. Clinton’s homebrew server system, the concerns of the House conservatives seem prescient.

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The Problem with Islam Is Aggressive Scripture, Not Aggressive ‘Traditionalism’

quran

National Review, By Andrew C. McCarthy — January 16, 2016:

On the Corner this week, the eminent Jim Talent touted (with some reservations) an essay about “moderate Islam” by Cheryl Bernard. A Rand Institute researcher, she is also a novelist, a defender of war-ravaged cultures, and the wife of Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to post-Taliban (or is it pre-Taliban?) Afghanistan. With due respect to Dr. Bernard, who does much heroic work, I believe the essay highlights what is wrong with Western academic analysis of Islam.

The problem comes into focus in the very title of Senator Talent’s post, “Aggressive Traditionalism.” That is the attribute of Islamic societies that Dr. Bernard blames for the frustration of her high hopes for “moderate Islam.” In truth, however, the challenge Islam poses for moderation is not its tradition; it is Islamic doctrine — the scriptural support for traditional sharia and Islamic supremacist ideology.

I give Bernard credit. She is the unusual strategist who is willing to admit failure — in this instance, of the strategy of promoting “moderate Islam” as the antidote to “radical Islam.” But even this concession goes off the rails: She maintains that the strategy was somehow “basically sensible” despite being “off track in two critical ways.” The real problem, though, is not the two errors she identifies but the fatal flaw she fails to address: The happenstance that there are many moderate Muslims in the world does not imply the existence of a coherent “moderate Islam.” Try as she might, Bernard cannot surmount this doctrinal hurdle by blithely ignoring the centrality of doctrine to a belief system — without it, there is nothing to believe.

But let’s start with the two critical problems she does cite. The first is the matter of defining what a “moderate” is. Bernard concedes that she and other thinkers adopted a definition that was “too simplistic” — meaning, too broad. It made “violence and terrorism” the litmus test for “moderation.” This enabled what she labels “aggressive traditionalists” to masquerade as moderates.

Who are the “aggressive traditionalists”? Muslims who, though nonviolent themselves, “harbor attitudes of hostility and alienation” against non-Muslims. The failure to account for the challenge that “aggressive traditionalism” poses for moderation led to the second flaw Bernard admits: the undermining of “integration” — a reference to Muslim assimilation (or the lack thereof) in the West.

This is fine as far as it goes. In fact, Bernard is quite correct about the main challenge posed by hostile, alienated, integration-resistant Muslims: Even if they are personally nonviolent, the communities they create become “the breeding ground for extremism and the safe harbor for extremists.”

But “extremism” about what? This is the salient question, and it is one Bernard studiously ducks. The error is implicit from the very start of her essay (my italics):

Over the past decade, the prevailing thinking has been that radical Islam is most effectively countered by moderate Islam. The goal was to find religious leaders and scholars and community ‘influencers’ — to use the lingo of the counter-radicalization specialists — who could explain to their followers and to any misguided young people that Islam is a religion of peace, that the term jihad refers mainly to the individual’s personal struggle against temptation and for moral betterment, and that tolerance and interfaith cooperation should prevail.

Plainly, the “prevailing thinking” casually assumes “facts” not only unproven but highly dubious. Bernard takes it as a given not only that there is an easily identifiable “moderate Islam,” but also that this . . . what? . . . doctrine? . . . attitude? . . . is the most effective counter to “radical Islam.”

But what is moderate Islam? She doesn’t say. She maintains that there are countless moderate Muslims who, by her telling, embrace “Western values, modern life and integration.” In fact, she assumes there are so many such Muslims that they constitute the “mainstream” of Islam. Yet, that proposition is not necessarily true even in the West, where Muslims are a minority who might be expected to assimilate into the dominant, non-Muslim culture; and it most certainly is not true in the Muslim-majority countries of the Middle East.

Even worse is Bernard’s assertion — uncritical, and without a hint that there may be a counter-case — “that Islam is a religion of peace, [and] that the term jihad refers mainly to the individual’s personal struggle against temptation and for moral betterment.”

As is the wont of Islam’s Western apologists, Bernard is attempting to shield from examination what most needs examining. Her reliance on the potential of “moderate Islam” to quell “radical Islam” is entirely premised on the conceit that Islam is, in fact, moderate and peaceful. Her assumption that the vast majority of Muslims can be won over (indeed, have already been won over, she seems to say) to Western values is premised on the conceit that those values are universal and, hence, locatable in the core of Islam — such that “tolerance and interfaith cooperation should prevail” because Islam is all for them.

Islam, however, is not a religion of peace. It is a religion of conquest that was spread by the sword. Moreover, it is not only untrue that jihad refers “mainly” to the individual’s internal struggle to live morally; it is also untrue that the Islamic ideal of the moral life is indistinguishable from the Western conception.

To be clear, this is not to say that Islam could not conceivably become peaceful. Nor is it to say that jihad could not be reinterpreted such that a decisive majority of Muslims would accept that its actual primary meaning — namely, holy war to establish Islam’s dominance — has been superseded by the quest for personal betterment. To pull that off, though, will require a huge fight. It cannot be done by inhabiting an alternative universe where it has already been done.

That fight would be over doctrine, the stark omission in Bernard’s analysis. I do not think the omission is an oversight. Note her labeling of faux moderates as “aggressive traditionalists.” Citing “tradition” implies that the backwardness and anti-Western hostility she detects, to her great dismay, is a function of cultural inhibitions. But what she never tells you, and hopes you’ll never ask, is where Islamic culture and traditions come from.

Alas, they are direct consequences of Islamic scripture and sharia, the law derived from scripture. She can’t go there. She wants Islam to be moderate, but its scriptures won’t cooperate. She must rely on tradition and culture because traditions and cultures can and do evolve. Scripture, by contrast, does not — not in Islam as taught by over a millennium’s worth of scholars and accepted by untold millions of Muslims. Mainstream Islam holds that scripture is immutable. The Koran, the center of Islamic life, is deemed the “uncreated word of Allah,” eternal. (See, e.g., Sura 6:115: “The Word of thy Lord doth find its fulfillment in truth and justice: None can change His Words: For He is the one Who heareth and knoweth all.”)

Bernard must blame aggressive traditionalism because if the problem is aggressive doctrine rooted in aggressive scripture, then it’s not changing any time soon — or maybe ever. Moreover, she is not in a position to challenge doctrine and scripture without deeply offending the believers to whom she is appealing. They are taught that any departure from centuries-old scholarly consensus is blasphemy.

The story Dr. Bernard tells of Islamic intransigence in her own Northern Virginia neighborhood is instructive. A Muslim-American friend of hers is a social worker who finds jobs for Muslim immigrants. He lands openings for a group of Somali women in a hospital laundry service; but the women first tell him they must check with their imam, then they turn down the jobs because they will not be allowed to wear their hijabs. The social worker and Bernard are exasperated: Why don’t the women and their adviser grasp that because hijabs could get caught in the machinery and cause injury, there is a “pragmatic reason” for departing from the traditional Islamic norm?

Notice: Bernard never considers, or at least never acknowledges, that there is doctrinal support for every decision the Somalis make: The scriptures instruct Muslims to consult authorities knowledgeable in sharia before embarking on a questionable course of conduct; they instruct Muslim women to wear the veil (particularly in any setting where they will be exposed to men who are not their husbands or close relatives). And while pragmatism suggests to the rational Dr. Bernard and her moderate, Westernized social-worker friend an obvious exception to Islam’s usual clothing rule, mainstream Islam in the Middle East and Somalia admonishes that Western reliance on reason and pragmatism is a form of corruption, a pretext for ignoring religious duty.

Doctrine is the answer to virtually every immoderate instance of aggressive “traditionalism” Bernard complains about: the separation of men from women in the mosque, and the decidedly poorer accommodations (“often unacceptable and even insulting,” as Bernard describes them) to which women are consigned; the separation of the sexes in work and social settings; the instructions not to trust or befriend “unbelievers”; the admonitions to resist adopting Western habits and developing loyalty to Western institutions. There is scriptural support for every one of these injunctions.

From the fact that she has moderate, “modernized” Muslim friends, who do not comport themselves in such “traditional” fashion, Bernard extravagantly deduces that tradition is the problem. She never comes close to grappling with doctrine — i.e., the thing that most devout Muslims believe is what makes them Muslims. The closest she comes is the fleeting observation that her moderate social-worker friend “is a scholar [presumably of Islam] and a professor who emigrated from a conservative Muslim country.” The obvious suggestion is that if he is not troubled by the flouting of traditional Islamic mores, surely there must not be any credible scriptural objection. But if it is relevant that her friend is a scholar, is it not also relevant that there are thousands of other scholars — scholars who actually do Islamic jurisprudence rather than social work for a living — who would opine that sharia requires these traditional behaviors and that it is the social worker who is out of touch?

When Dr. Bernard’s husband, Ambassador Khalilzad, served in Kabul, he midwifed the new Afghan constitution that purported to safeguard Western notions of liberty while simultaneously installing Islam as the state religion and sharia as fundamental law. In short order, Afghanistan put former Muslims who had publicly renounced Islam on capital trial for apostasy. Dr. Khalilzad, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other Western officials and intellectuals pronounced themselves duly shocked and appalled — notwithstanding that anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Islamic scripture knows that it calls for public apostates to be killed.

To great American embarrassment, the apostates had to be whisked out of the country lest the incompatibility of civil rights and sharia become even more painfully apparent. It is worth acknowledging, however, that what chased them out of Afghanistan was not aggressive traditionalism. It was Islamic doctrine, which simply is not moderate. Looked at doctrinally, the challenge for “moderate Islam” is . . . Islam.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

 

Just Asking about Islam and Terrorism

jihadiNational Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, Dec. 26, 2015:

Let me ask you a question.

Let’s say you are an authentically moderate Muslim. Perhaps you were born into Islam but have become secularist. Or perhaps you consider yourself a devout Muslim but interpret Islam in a way that rejects violent jihad, rejects the concept that religious and civic life are indivisible, and rejects the principle that sharia’s totalitarian societal framework and legal code must be imposed on the state. Let’s just take that as a given: You are no more inclined toward terrorism than any truly peaceful, moderate, pro-democratic non-Muslim.

So let me pop the question: Is there any insulting thing I could say, no matter how provocative, or any demeaning video I could show you, no matter how lurid, that could convince you to join ISIS?

Mind you, I am not asking whether, upon my insulting and provoking you, you would ever want to have anything to do with me again. I am asking whether there is anything that could be said or done by me, or, say, Donald Trump, or Nakoula Basseley Nakoula — the video producer (Innocence of Muslims) whom Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tried to blame for the Benghazi massacre — that could persuade you to throw up your hands and join the jihad? Is there anything so profoundly offensive to Islam that we could conjure up that would make a truly moderate, peaceful Muslim sign up for mass murder? Torching and beheading? Killing children? Participating in systematic rape as a weapon of war?

I didn’t think so.

RELATED: Yes, Islamic Is Islamic, But That’s Just the Beginning of the Debate

Yet, understand, that is what Washington would have you believe. Whether it is Barack Obama sputtering on about how Guantanamo Bay drives jihadist recruitment, or Hillary Clinton obsessing over videos (the real one by Nakoula that she pretended caused terrorism in Libya, and the pretend ones about Donald Trump that she claims have Muslims lined up from Raqqa to Ramadi to join ISIS), you are to believe violent jihad is not something that Muslims do but that Americans incite.

And it’s not just Democrats who’d have you buy this bunkum. Think of the Arab Spring fairy tale — about Libya, Egypt, and, most recently, Syria — that Republicans have been telling for years, critiqued by yours truly in Spring Fever. It is still GOP gospel, glibly peddled by Marco Rubio just a couple of weeks ago at the 2016 presidential candidates’ debate. (Disclosure: I support Ted Cruz.)

RELATED: Dispelling the ‘Few Extremists’ Myth — the Muslim World Is Overcome with Hate

The fairy tale goes something like this. There is a terrible dictator who so tormented his people that they rose up against him. These were noble people, overwhelmingly moderate, secular Muslims — adherents of a “religion of peace” (or, as Bush secretary of state Condi Rice put it, “a religion of peace and love”), who craved democracy. (Caution: You can call them “rebels,” but words like “Muslim Brotherhood” and “sharia” are not to be uttered — we’re trying to build a narrative here!) Sure, the noble people may have tolerated the occasional jihadist in their midst, but that could happen to even the most well-intentioned peaceful moderate, right? (The pervasive presence of jihadists who used Syria and Libya as gateways to jihad against Americans in Iraq is also not to be mentioned.)

Now let’s let bygones be bygones. No need to tarry over small details — like how the noble people installed anti-democratic Islamists who imposed a sharia constitution on Egypt after ousting their pro-American dictator; or how Libya became a jihadist playpen where Americans are murdered after the U.S. government sided with the noble people to oust the U.S.-supported dictator who had been giving us counterterrorism intelligence about jihadists in places like Benghazi.

Let’s just skip ahead to Syria. There, the noble people needed America’s help, but Barack Obama turned a deaf ear. (No need to get into Obama’s collusion with the Islamic-supremacist governments of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to arm and train the “rebels.”) This forfeited our golden opportunity to intervene actively and empower the bounty of moderate, secular, America-loving, democracy-craving Muslims (because that worked so well in Libya). But for Obama’s default, these moderate legions could simultaneously have toppled the dictator and purged the teeny-tiny number of jihadists who might have been skulking about. (Let’s not get into how there don’t seem to be enough of these moderates to man a soccer team, let alone a legion; or how weapons supplied to these “rebels” somehow keep ending up in the hands of the jihadists.) Obama’s default, coupled with the ruthlessness of the dictator, created a leadership and territory void into which jihadists suddenly poured (apparently out of nowhere). Somehow, these spontaneously generating jihadists managed to entice recruits, vastly increasing in number and power (even though — you’ll have to trust us on this — the moderate, secular Muslims really want nothing to do with them).

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how ISIS was born and al-Qaeda rose from the ashes.

You buying it? Me neither.

RELATED: Trump’s Muslim Immigration Ban Should Touch Off a Badly Needed Discussion

About 20 years ago, I prosecuted a dozen jihadists, led by the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, for waging a terrorist war against the United States — including the World Trade Center bombing and a plot to attack the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, as well as other New York City landmarks. The defendants were caught on tape building bombs, scheming to strike at American military sites, and planning attacks timed to achieve maximum infidel carnage.

At trial, the jihadists tried to tell the jury they were just moderate, peace-loving Muslims who had been provoked by American foreign policy, a perception of anti-Muslim bias, and videos of Muslims being persecuted in Bosnia. The Blind Sheikh insisted his incitements to jihad were simply a case of faithfully applying sharia principles, which, according to his lawyers, the First Amendment gave him the right to do.

So I asked the jury a simple question:

Is there any obnoxious, insulting, infuriating thing I could say to you, or show to you, that would convince you to join up with mass-murdering terrorists? To become a terrorist yourself?

Of course, a dozen commonsense New Yorkers did not need to be asked such a question. They laughed the defense out of the courtroom.

Alas, in the 20 years since, the defense they laughed out of the courtroom has become the bipartisan government policy of the United States.

Go figure.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Fox News is getting the message out on jihad!

a gThese interviews are packed with important information that Americans need to hear. Kudos to Fox News for interviewing the experts!

After O’Reilly gives his opinion on Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslim Immigration, he interviews counterterrorism specialist Aaron Cohen and Center for Security Policy’s Jim Hanson. They discuss taking a temporary pause in issuing visas to people from terror supporting countries and a detailed plan to go after ISIS.

***

Megyn Kelly interviews Andrew McCarthy and Dr. Sebastian Gorka. They discuss the importance of vetting for Islamic supremacist ideology and sharia adherence. Dr. Gorka points out that the San Bernardino attack used  classic jihadi tradecraft. They also touched on the need Mosque surveillance and looking at the background of Imams.

***

And Dr. Gorka was on Fox and Friends this morning.

Terror Expert: Don’t Expect Calif. Attack to Be the Last on US Soil (foxnewsinsider.com)

Counterterrorism expert Dr. Sebastian Gorka said we should not expect the San Bernardino terror attack to be the last by jihadis on American soil.

He said that in the last 20 months, the U.S. has killed or arrested 82 ISIS suspects, and that a significant portion of them planned on staying in the country to kill Americans.

“They have decided the best way to serve the new caliph, the new emperor, would be to kill Americans here. We published that report before San Bernardino, with one conclusion: If you just look at the facts, a Paris-type attack is not a question of if, it is a question of when.

“Do not expect this to be the last attack in America by jihadis.”

Gorka also weighed in on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to ban the entry of Muslims into the U.S. “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Gorka said that the plan is bad for national security, because U.S. intelligence depends heavily on the Muslim community and allies in the region, and “this is going to make them just close down.”

He also said there’s logistically no good way to vet people on the basis of religion.

“Are we going to test them on Bible verses? How many Americans are going to pass a Christian test?” Watch the interview below.