Politics & Policy

Hard Questions

The Strange Case of Sami al-Arian, Part III

When the Department of Justice indicted Sami al-Arian, John Podhoretz quipped in the New York Post that it should be “hang-your-head-in-shame day” for al-Arian’s many supporters in media and academia. In a powerful editorial in this weekend’s edition of the Weekly Standard, David Tell suggests that Podhoretz was too optimistic: Disturbingly many of the alleged terror prof’s associates seem to feel not a pang of shame.

“Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says ‘nothing has been brought forward to indicate any criminal activity’ by Al-Arian. What we’re seeing, instead, is the ‘Israelization’ of American policy and procedures,” a police-state frame-up manufactured top to bottom by the ‘attack dogs of the pro-Israel lobby.’ The American Muslim Political Coordination Council thinks it a “disturbing” sign of sectarian bigotry that federal prosecutors have ‘inserted religious expressions like Jihad and martyrdom’ in the indictment of . . . a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader accused of financing martyrdom attacks. The Arab American Institute calls the charges against Al-Arian ‘specious.’ The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee reports that there is ‘no evidence’ against him whatsoever.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise that CAIR and the others continue to stand by al-Arian. In a way, it’s even clarifying. Our choice of friends tells much about us: about our values, our principles, and our ultimate loyalties.

But one thing in this story still remains curiously unclear: How was it that Sami al-Arian and his family were allowed to get as close as they did to Candidate and then President George W. Bush? Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy has been asking this question for some time, and he asked it again in yesterday’s Washington Times:

“What considerations, political or otherwise, prompted members of Mr. Bush’s staff to believe Mr. Al-Arian was the kind of person they wanted on their team? Who bears responsibility for making those calculations? And are they continuing to do so with respect to other individuals and organizations that could, at the very least, embarrass Mr. Bush and, at worst, seriously undermine his efforts in the war on terror?”

I think Gaffney’s questions are important – but I also think they are a little misplaced. For al-Arian had been a welcome guest not only in the Bush White House, but also in Bill Clinton’s. It would be a great mistake to think of someone like al-Arian as being on Bush’s “team.” He was on a team of his own, serving purposes of his own – and the Bush organization was his victim, not his accomplices.

But over the past 15 months, the administration has woken up. While respecting civil liberties and the rights of minorities, the Bush administration has closed Islamic charities tainted by terrorism, passed laws that permit the FBI to monitor radical mosques, and tightened enforcement of the immigration laws against illegals from countries where terrorism is prevalent. Individuals with troublesome associations have been quietly removed from the White House staff and visiting list. As for Sami al-Arian, without the Bush administration’s Patriot Act, it’s doubtful that the indictment against him would exist at all. Yes, as we say in Washington, mistakes were made. But they have also been corrected – and fast. How about some credit where credit is due?

What the Antiwar Marchers Will Say

My friend Gerald Posner, author of Case Closed and other important books, is a former Lefty who has now enlisted in the War on Terror. After much soul-searching, he recently posted a short essay with the arresting title: “Was I That Stupid?” It’s a small classic that deserves a big audience.

An Arrest in Pakistan

I hope this is the end of all those stories about how action against Saddam Hussein “distracts” attention from the campaign against al-Qaeda.


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