Magazine | September 10, 2012, Issue

Obama and the Islamists

The president’s disastrous policy of appeasement

Fittingly, it was the end of spring — just as giddy dreams of democracy in Cairo were giving way to the harsh reality of Muslim Brotherhood governance — when the Obama Department of Homeland Security chose to take time out from its busy non-enforcement of the federal immigration laws to issue a visa to a member of a rabidly anti-American terrorist organization so that he could come to the White House and consult with Obama officials on the future of Egypt.

Hani Nour Eldin is a member of Gama’at al-Islamia (the Islamic Group), the jihadist organization whose emir, Omar Abdel Rahman (the “Blind Sheikh”), is serving a life sentence for leading a terrorist war against the United States that included the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a foiled plot to bomb other New York City landmarks. Osama bin Laden publicly credited Abdel Rahman with issuing, from jail, the fatwa approving the 9/11 attacks. Since his arrest in 1993, Gama’at has threatened mass-murder attacks against Americans to attempt to extort his release, and has perpetrated massacres — including, in 1997, the slaughter of 62 tourists and police officers in Luxor, Egypt — to underscore its deadly seriousness.

Yet the Obama administration rolled out the red carpet for Eldin, an unabashed Gama’at official. He was invited to Washington along with a contingent of Muslim Brotherhood operatives and other Egyptian Islamists. Through the alchemy of “democratic” elections, they’re somehow not Islamic supremacists anymore. The Obama administration would have us see them as “parliamentarians.”

When it comes to the Islamist threat against the U.S., the Eldin affair is the Obama administration in small compass: Cover our enemies in the camouflage of “Arab Spring” illusions and pretend that they are our friends, that the anti-democrats are tribunes of democracy.

Naturally, Eldin used his audience with the president’s top national-security advisers to press for the Blind Sheikh’s release. Why wouldn’t he? After all, demanding Sheikh Abdel Rahman’s release is exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi did in his first public speech after being elected president of Egypt. It is no secret to Egypt’s new leaders, just as it is no secret to Muslim Brotherhood operatives everywhere, including here in the U.S., that nothing is off the table for the Obama administration when it comes to accommodating Islamists.

The Brotherhood’s serial provocations appear to make no difference. In 2008, the Justice Department proved during the Holy Land Foundation trial, its most significant terrorism-financing prosecution to date, that the Brotherhood is committed to “eliminating and destroying Western civilization,” as its leaders in America put it in an internal memorandum. Materially supporting Hamas, the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, has long been the global Brotherhood’s top priority. Despite its designation as a terrorist organization under American law, Hamas has been championed by the Brotherhood’s American affiliates since its inception; in fact, during the early Nineties, Hamas was actually run from the Virginia home of Mousa abu Marzook, then chief of the Brotherhood’s American operations. Nor is Brotherhood hostility just old news. In October 2010, the Brotherhood’s “Supreme Guide,” Mohammed Badi, called for violent jihad against the U.S. The Brotherhood’s top sharia jurist, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, a vigorous Hamas supporter who declares that Islam will “conquer America,” issued a fatwa endorsing violent jihad against U.S. military and support personnel in Iraq.

Still, the Obama administration was supportive of the Brotherhood throughout the Egyptian electoral process, with the State Department including it in democracy-training classes and announcing that the president would be “satisfied” with Brotherhood victories at the polls. After Morsi successfully campaigned on a platform of, as he put it, “the sharia, then the sharia, and finally the sharia,” Obama was among the first world leaders to congratulate him on his triumph. Immediately afterwards, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was dispatched to Cairo to extend Morsi a personal invitation to visit the White House in September, even as she pressured Egypt’s transitional military junta to surrender power to the elected, Brotherhood-dominated government. The invitation stands, as does Obama’s insistence on continuing the annual $1.3 billion in funding for Egypt’s military, despite Morsi’s attempt to seize dictatorial powers, the droves of Christians fleeing Egyptian persecution, the Sinai’s conversion into a terrorist safe haven, and the new government’s public fêting of Hamas leaders as heroes.

#page#Obama’s obsession with “Islamic outreach” has topped the administration’s agenda from the start. Upon taking power, the president gave his first exclusive interview to al-Arabiya, the Dubai-based Arabic television network, bizarrely claiming, “My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy” — as if the Bush years had not been a congeries of “religion of peace” apologias, syrupy Iftar dinners, and non-stop “dialogue” with Islamists at the expense of failing to empower authentic Muslim moderates.

Obama continued playing into the Brotherhood’s noxious U.S. “war against Islam” narrative in his ballyhooed June 2009 Cairo speech — the one to which he invited Brotherhood leaders even though the organization was then banned under Egyptian law; the one at which he airbrushed Islamic scripture, gave a fictional account of Islamic history, endorsed the Islamist canard that the Jewish claim on Israel is rooted in Western guilt over the Holocaust rather than Israel’s ancient status as the Jewish homeland, and adopted the Palestinian rhetoric that frames terrorism against Israel as “resistance” to an illegitimate occupier.

To be sure, before Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in early 2011, Obama’s amateur-hour foreign-affairs instincts were on excruciating display. The president first supported the pro-American dictator, then backpedaled as the Tahrir Square protests ensued, and finally called for Mubarak to resign after it was already clear both that he would be ousted and that the Brotherhood would be the chief beneficiary.

This pattern has become embarrassingly familiar. President Obama first claimed that the Brotherhood was not to be feared, because it didn’t have much support in Egypt. Then, when the Brothers started winning elections by whopping four-to-one margins, Obama’s national-intelligence director, James Clapper, was sent to Capitol Hill to testify to the administration’s even more preposterous Version B: The Brotherhood is no problem because it is a moderate, “largely secular” organization. (Yes, that would be the Muslim Brotherhood, whose motto includes “Allah is our objective . . . the Koran is our law, jihad is our way.”) Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton pronounced Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to be a bold democratic “reformer,” a position the administration clung to until the tyrant’s killing sprees finally embarrassed Obama into withdrawing support. In Libya, the administration first pushed for increased aid to Moammar Qaddafi’s regime in recognition of its intelligence cooperation against jihadists; then, with no intervening Libyan provocation against the U.S., it swung to the side of the Brotherhood and jihadists allied with it once they appeared likely to succeed in toppling Qaddafi. In notoriously “leading from behind” on Libya, the administration failed to ensure the safeguarding of Qaddafi’s weapons depots, with the result that Libyan arms have made their way to Hamas and to al-Qaeda’s various African havens.

It is, however, Obama’s deliberate collusions with Islamists that are most alarming. The Brotherhood’s American affiliates — many of which were cited by the Justice Department as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation case — are now consulted by executive-branch agencies on counterterrorism policy. The Pentagon, the FBI, and the Homeland Security Department have purged references to Islam from training materials. Where Islam is concerned, only praise is permitted in government circles; references to “jihad” are verboten, and even “terrorism” is frowned upon — “terror,” after all, appears in the Koran, and Obama officials prefer that aggression of this kind be thought of as an “overseas contingency,” or “workplace violence,” or the result of a psychiatric condition that just happens to afflict an inordinately large number of young Muslim men.

Meanwhile, the president has joined himself at the hip with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist prime minister of Turkey, even as our ostensible NATO ally funds Hamas and works with it to break the blockade by which Israel stops weapons transfers to Gaza. The administration is supporting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (a bloc of 56 Islamic nations plus the Palestinian Authority) in promoting unconstitutional restrictions on speech critical of Islam. Obama insists on continuing financial aid to the Palestinian Authority despite its effort to declare statehood unilaterally, in violation of the Oslo Accords. And Obama’s State Department has joined Turkey and other Islamist regimes in a “counterterrorism forum” from which Israel, the world’s Number One terror target, has been excluded — in deference to the Islamist view that attacks on Israel do not constitute “terrorism.”

How much better would a Romney administration be? Governor Romney made a dramatic point of visiting Israel in July, something President Obama has gone out of his way to avoid doing. To have a president who can distinguish America’s friends from America’s enemies would be a vast improvement.

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