National Security & Defense

I’m Glad Obama Skipped Paris

He doesn’t really believe in protecting speech critical of Islam.

Unlike many conservatives, I was not outraged when President Obama directed the Justice Department to end the pretense of “defending” the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I feel the same way about the president’s decision not to join dozens of world leaders in Paris last Sunday to march in favor of free speech and against Islamic-supremacist terror. I’m glad he stayed home. I’m glad he didn’t send Vice President Biden (whose main job is to attend such exhibitions), Secretary of State Kerry (whose main job escapes me), or Attorney General Holder (who was in Paris but still didn’t go).

It’s not too often that the “most transparent administration in history” is, what’s the word? . . . transparent.

To be sure, in the immediate time frame of these decisions, Obama was moved more by frivolity than by principle. On DOMA, he needed to make a gesture to well-heeled donors on the left who, in their frustration over the president’s too-slow “evolution” on gay marriage, were withholding campaign cash. As for Paris, I suspect Obama wanted to watch the pro-football playoffs (which is why —  shades of Benghazi! — the White House refused to reveal what the Leader From Behind Of The Free World was doing in lieu of attending the free world’s march).

Nevertheless, even if the two decisions were not made for noble reasons, they represented Obama’s true positions. It is important that we know where the president stands.

Obama was always against DOMA, always in favor of gay marriage. He adopted the “evolution” pose because his true position was politically risky. (I resist saying it was politically “unpopular” because gay marriage is not as unpopular as it was just a few years ago). Back then, he wanted to get elected and reelected; he still cared enough to feign support for what he opposed in order to remain viable.

I was glad when Obama came out of the closet, so to speak. Put aside the benefits of transparency. The president’s gamesmanship on DOMA was not cost-free hypocrisy. As Ed Whelan has shown, in ostensibly defending the statute, Holder’s Justice Department was actually sabotaging the litigation — forfeiting some of the best arguments in DOMA’s favor. When the Obama administration switched sides, it was at least possible to replace the Justice Department with counsel who would zealously represent the cause they were advocating.

Of course, the fact that the Justice Department would now be on the other side decreased the pro-DOMA side’s prospects of winning. The reversal may well have swayed the Supreme Court. (See Ed Whelan’s assessment of the incoherent and lawless majority opinion, here.) Even under Holder’s baleful stewardship, the Justice Department remains influential with the federal courts.

Still, it is better to know where policymakers really stand. As I argued in Faithless Execution, most conservatives do not begrudge the Obama administration’s right to disagree with us. We object to the administration’s dishonesty in conveying its policy preferences and its lawlessness in imposing them.

That brings us to Sunday’s march in Paris, where well over a million people — but no one of note from the United States government — gathered to defend free speech.

The show of international solidarity in the immediate aftermath of last week’s jihadist atrocities was very moving. But let’s not kid ourselves: It was rife with hypocrisy. Throughout what has become of Europe under the leadership of those who marched, Charlie Hebdo’s lampooning of Islam is regarded as actionable “hate speech.” Prior to last week, these preening progressives could reliably be found appeasing Islamists by prosecuting publication of the same words and images they made a show of celebrating on Sunday. Are you holding your breath waiting for that to change?

Me neither.

And that’s just the craven Western leaders. Also front and center at the rally were Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. These men are notorious promoters of jihadist terror and the sharia repression of speech it enforces. Erdogan is a significant backer of Hamas and Hezbollah who admonishes that it is a “crime against humanity” to urge Muslims to assimilate and adopt Western principles like free expression. Abbas, who is now in a unity government with Hamas, has a long history of brazenly endorsing terrorism (“resistance”) against Israel.

Both Turkey and the Palestinian Authority — along with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other Islamist governments — are enthusiastic proponents of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s project to impose sharia standards worldwide. As University of Tennessee law professor Robert C. Blitt relates in a USA Today op-ed this week, Islamic law’s repressive blasphemy rules are at the top of their wish list — to impose them on the world as they are imposed “in a vast arc of Islamic countries from Morocco in the West to Indonesia in the East.”

The Obama administration has been the lead Western partner in that project for six years, since the first days of Obama’s presidency.

The Islamist–progressive alliance I explored in The Grand Jihad would have you believe that accommodating sharia blasphemy rules would result in only a narrow limitation on free expression crudely obnoxious toward Islam, the sort of thing few of us would lament — e.g., expression analogous to the nauseating Piss Christ. This, however, is simply false.

Sharia forbids any speech — whether true or not — that casts Islam in an unfavorable light, dissents from settled Muslim doctrine, has the potential to sow discord within the ummah, or entices Muslims to renounce Islam or convert to other faiths. The idea is not merely to ban gratuitous ridicule — which, by the way, sensible people realize government should not do (and, under our Constitution, may not do) even if they themselves are repulsed by gratuitous ridicule. The objective is to ban all critical examination of Islam, period – even though Islamic supremacism, a mainstream interpretation of Islam, happens to be a top national-security threat that we sorely need to examine if we want to understand and defeat our enemies.

In conjunction with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Obama administration sponsored United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, the patent aim of which was to make negative criticism of Islam (under the vaporous guise of “inciting hostility”) a violation of law in every country. (See here, here, and here.) That would include our country, notwithstanding the First Amendment. That is, if the Obama administration had its druthers, it would be illegal to publish the anti-Muslim satire featured in Charlie Hebdo. As PJ Media’s Patrick Poole notes, Resolution 16/18 follows seamlessly from the OIC’s “10 Year Plan of Action,” adopted in 2005. A key plank of the plan is to “endeavor to have the United Nations adopt an international resolution to counter Islamophobia, and call upon all States to enact laws to counter it, including deterrent punishments.”

Hillary Clinton, as Obama’s secretary of state, not only spearheaded this “Istanbul Process” collaboration with Erdogan’s Turkey and the other OIC governments. As related in my column last weekend, Mrs. Clinton also endorsed the use of coercion to punish expressions of “Islamophobia” — as she put it, “old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming.” What better way to circumvent such inconveniences as the First Amendment?

Of course, the Istanbul Process has not occurred in a vacuum. As I summarized in The Grand Jihad, Obama’s vaunted 2009 Cairo speech adopted the Islamist fantasy that Islam — as opposed to Islamic-supremacist extortion in the form of the Barbary pirates — had “been part of America’s story” from the start of our history. Obama took page after page out of the shopworn Islamist playbook: expurgating scriptural passages commanding terror, war, and intolerance in order to portray the Koran as a veritable love poem; attributing to Islam (as opposed to the subject peoples conquered by Islamic raiders) the preservation of the West’s cultural inheritance; intimating that Israel’s homeland was a gift to salve European consciences in the aftermath of the Holocaust, rather than the ancient home of the Jewish nation for centuries before Islam existed; and invoking “resistance,” the weasel word used by Islamists to rationalize terrorism, in addressing jihadist mass-murder attacks.

Obama even echoed the false claim that American law had targeted Muslim “charitable giving,” making it harder for Muslims to fulfill their obligation of zakat. In point of fact, American law does not single out Muslims; it prohibits material support to terrorism. That has been a particular problem for Muslims because, contrary to the oft-repeated fairy tale, zakat is not charitable giving; it is the required financial contribution to the fortification of the ummah (zakat may be given only to Muslims, not to “the poor” in general), and under classical sharia, an eighth of it is supposed to go to violent jihadists (as the authoritative sharia manual Reliance of the Traveller explains: Zakat is paid to “those fighting for Allah, meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations for whom no salary has been allotted in the army roster”).

Over the objections of the Egyptian government, the administration invited top officials of the then-banned Muslim Brotherhood to Obama’s Cairo speech — notwithstanding that the Brotherhood is rabidly anti-American and had just been proved in an American criminal trial (the Holy Land Foundation case) to be the driving force behind a multimillion-dollar Hamas-support conspiracy. After the Egyptian government fell, Secretary Clinton exerted pressure on the generals then in control to cede power to the elected Brotherhood government, which had vowed to implement a sharia constitution. When the generals agreed to step aside, and the Islamists predictably released terrorist suspects, stepped up the persecution of non-Muslims, and engineered adoption of a sharia constitution, the Obama administration continued to support it with lavish financial and military aid — aid it threatened to cut off only after the Egyptian armed forces, with broad public support, ousted the Brotherhood from power.

Obama is so preternaturally averse to acknowledging jihadist terrorism that he absurdly rebranded the War on Terror as “Overseas Contingency Operations.” His administration refused to acknowledge that the Fort Hood Massacre, in which a brazen jihadist mass-murdered thirteen American soldiers, was jihadist terrorism, insisting, instead, on the ludicrous label of “workplace violence” — belittling the heroism and ultimate sacrifice of those who were about to deploy to battle terrorists in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, when Afghan Muslims rioted and murdered over the accidental destruction of Korans, Obama . . . apologized to Afghanistan.

The president and his underlings purged information about Islamic supremacism and its instigation of terrorism from materials used to train intelligence, military, and law-enforcement personnel. Instructors who lectured on these materials were terminated, as were others who refused to conform to the administration’s delusional, counter-historical, counter-commonsense smiley-face jihad.

Consistent with the administration’s undermining of the First Amendment in the Istanbul process, the Justice Department refused to rule out proposals to criminalize speech unflattering to Islam. In congressional testimony, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to utter the words “radical Islam,” much less to concede the nexus between Islamic-supremacist doctrine and terrorist attacks by Muslims. Even this weekend, after the jihad mass murders in Paris made it politically impossible to resist the word “terrorism” and the discussion of Islam’s connection to it, Holder rejected the phrase “radical Islam” –  blathering, instead, about how terrorists “use a corrupted version of Islam” to rationalize their attacks (while conveniently omitting mention of the authoritative scriptures and mainstream sharia jurists endorsing jihadist terror).

For consultation on national security and to fill top policy positions, the Obama administration has turned to Muslims with intimate ties to Islamic-supremacist groups and extensive histories of condemning American counterterrorism efforts — not just controversial practices like waterboarding but civilian terrorism prosecutions in which Muslim radicals have been convicted, often based on overwhelming evidence. The administration ran roughshod over federal antiterrorism law in issuing a visa to a member of a notorious Islamic terrorist organization in order to consult with him on developments in Egypt. It has similarly consulted with sharia jurists who endorsed terrorist attacks on American military personnel in Iraq. President Obama reversed course in Libya, backing anti-American jihadists in the ouster of a regime that was cooperating with our government against those very jihadists — a coup that has left Libya in ruins while enabling the jihadists to raid Qaddafi’s arsenal.

The Obama administration has abused government power to project support for sharia’s repression of speech critical of Islam. In the aftermath of the Benghazi massacre, the president and his subordinates did not stop at fraudulently blaming an obscure anti-Muslim video for the carnage — thus implying that rioting was an understandable response to offensive expression. They proceeded to trump up a prosecution against the video producer, while Obama and Clinton condemned the video in public-service messages broadcast in Muslim countries. Obama exploited the administration’s “blame the video” fraud as the backdrop for his infamous declaration at the U.N. that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

And, let us not forget, the Obama White House castigated Charlie Hebdo magazine for publishing cartoons that derided Islamic supremacism. The president’s then-spokesman Jay Carney upbraided the publication not merely as “deeply offensive” but also potentially “inflammatory.” This accords with the administration’s pattern of rationalizing jihadist violence as an understandable reaction to verbal or artistic rebukes of Islam — a pattern of blaming speech rather than barbarism that Obama’s lip-service condemnations of the violence cannot camouflage.

If President Obama had attended the Paris march on Sunday, he would have been demonstrating in favor of the very free-speech principles he has assiduously worked against for six years. He would have been demonstrating against the same appeasement of Islamic-supremacist extortion that has been the hallmark of his presidency.

It would have been an epic exercise in hypocrisy. I’m glad he didn’t do it. As between Islamists and me, I’d rather know where my president’s sympathies lie. And I do.

— 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.


The Latest