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Report 20 August 2010

Terrorism & National Security Terrorism & National Security American Values Cordoba House terrorism


This week, with news about China's growing economic and military strength and the Iraq War coming to a symbolic end, the American political debate focused on one issue: the "Ground Zero Mosque."  This debate has resulted in inflammatory and extreme rhetoric from the far right that many have rightfully called "Islam-bashing."  This hate-filled rhetoric has been answered by moderate and principled conservatives - including Grover Norquist, Kathleen Parker and Joe Scarborough - who all came to the defense of American values and ideals.   National security experts spoke out this week with another message:  anti-Islamic rhetoric is not only against American values but against our security interests.  From helping extremist groups recruit, to pushing away our most important allies, to hurting America's image, phrases like "unhelpful to the American fighting men and women," "like offering your opponent two or three whips with which to beat you," and "may contribute to the next homegrown terrorist attack" underscore the depth of their concern. 

Ali Soufan, the FBI interrogator who successfully interrogated Abu Zubaydah and discovered that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and exactly the type of patriotic American that counterterrorism agencies need to be recruiting, wrote in Forbes Magazine this week that, "When demagogues appear to be equating Islam with terrorism, it's making young Muslims unsure about their place in the country. It bolsters the message that radicalizers are selling: That the war is against Islam, and Muslims are not welcome in America." [Ali Soufan, Forbes Magazine, 8/18/10]

Ted Olson, the Bush administration's Solicitor General and 9/11 widower, stated this week that, "I do believe that people of all religions have a right to build edifices or structures, places of religious worship or study where the community allows them to do it under zoning laws and that sort of thing. And that we don't want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into an act of intolerance for people of religious faith. And I don't think it should be a political issue. It shouldn't be a Republican or Democrat issue either." [Ted Olson, via Politico, 8/18/10]

Homeland security and terrorism expert David Schanzer writes that "Far from enhancing security in New York and across the country, the controversy may contribute to the next homegrown terrorist attack."  He goes on to explain that law enforcement authorities often depend on tips for information on potential terrorists and that "authorities agree such tips are most likely to come from the community in which the homegrown terrorist lives, which in this day and age is frequently the Muslim-American community.  In the years since the 9/11 attacks, officials have made many constructive efforts to engage and foster information exchanges with Muslim-Americans. These efforts, which make us all safer, are now being severely undercut by the attitudes the Ground Zero debate is laying bare for all to see." [David Schanzer, Newark Star Ledger, 8/17/10]

Major General Paul Eaton, US Army (Ret), Senior Advisor National Security Network, explained how this rhetoric is harmful to the military's objectives : "It is a slap in the face to a great many people we wish to have as allies. We are trying to make allies of our colleagues in Iraq and Afghanistan and this is not helpful." He also added, "This is unhelpful to the American fighting men and women and counter to the image we wish to portray in Afghanistan and Iraq." [Paul Eaton, via Media Matters, 8/16/10]

Lawrence Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Bush administration,  describes the extreme opposition, saying :"It is like offering your opponent two or three whips with which to beat you... The impact on our military people would be injurious if we say 'no.'  It would put another instrument in the hands of those who want to exploit the fear that Americans are at war with Islam and not the radical elements within it." [Lawrence Wilkerson, via Media Matters, 8/16/10]

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations and former Director Policy Planning in the Bush administration's State Department, discussed how the issue affects America's image in the world: "The anti-American aspect of this -- this has now become an international issue. One of the great ironies is the people doing this mosque, this community center, want to develop an American version of Islam that competes around the world with the Wahhabi -- with the Saudi intolerant version of Islam. So this issue now is being watched around the world to prove or to see whether Muslims in America have rights, have opportunities that Muslims in lots of other countries don't. So this has actually become an important aspect of our battle for the hearts and minds. It's no longer just a New York issue or a national issue. This has something really to do with the battle for hearts and minds in the Muslim world and whether there can be an American version of Islam that is more open and tolerant." [Richard Haass, via Media Matters, 8/16/10]

Peter Beinart, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation writes: "I wonder how David Petraeus feels about all this. There he is, slogging away in the Hindu Kush, desperately trying to be culturally sensitive, watching GIs get killed because Afghans believe the U.S. is waging a war on Islam, and back home, the super-patriots on Fox News have... declared war on Islam." [Peter Beinart, 8/17/10]

Michael Gerson, columnist for the Washington Post, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former Bush administration speechwriter and foreign policy aide, writes this week about the importance of Muslims Americans: "a mosque that rejects radicalism is not a symbol of the enemy's victory; it is a prerequisite for our own." [Michael Gerson,  8/16/10]

Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, wrote yesterday that, "The right-wing campaign against the so-called ‘Ground Zero mosque' includes vicious personal attacks on the Muslim cleric who leads the Cordoba Initiative, the organization behind the plan. I know Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, and I know him to be a moderate, forward-leaning Muslim ..." [Jeffrey Goldberg, 8/19/10]

What We're Reading

Israel and the Palestinians will return to direct negotiations for the first time in 20 months, delivering the Obama administration a small victory in its protracted effort to revive the Middle East peace process.

A deputy commander in an al Qaida linked insurgent group was apprehended in an overnight operation in eastern Afghanistan.

The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran's nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year - and perhaps longer - for Iran to complete what one senior official called a "dash" for a nuclear weapon.

The European Commission said that Greece has met the conditions to receive the second tranche of a $145 billion rescue loan.

A Thai appeals court ordered the extradition of suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout to the United States, angering Moscow but paving the way to put the man dubbed the "Merchant of Death" on trial.

Islamabad has accepted $5 million in aid from India for flood victims, a rare expression of goodwill between the feuding neighbors.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said his country should consider appointing anonymous judges for drug trafficking trials.

A trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund resigned over his decision to remain silent about receiving illegal uncut diamonds from supermodel Naomi Campbell 13 years ago.

North Korea appears to have added Facebook to other social networking sites it recently joined to ramp up its propaganda war against South Korea and the U.S.

Commentary of the Day

Christian Caryl lays out why John Bolton's timeline for bombing Iran is just plain wrong.

Matthew Alexander argues that building the mosque in lower Manhattan will deny Islamic extremists a propaganda victory and help America win the war of ideas against al Qaeda.

Eugene Robinson writes that, quiet as it's kept, President Obama is on a genuine winning streak, noting most prominently the president's fulfilling his promise to responsibly end the Iraq war.