Friday, August 15, 2008

Emerson Lawyers Up, Part 2

A few days after I sent my letter to Steven Emerson, the “anti-terrorism” expert with a history of getting it wrong detailed in my previous post, I received a letter from his lawyer, Mr. James Lake of Thomas & Locicero.

We definitely agree that Emerson is entitled to his opinion. Mr. Lake is also respectful, which I personally appreciate.

After that, though, we diverge.

Lake writes, “Mr. Emerson correctly quoted your observation that Osama bin Laden ‘sought to exploit legitimate Muslim grievances.’ Use of the word ‘legitimate’ clearly indicated you believe the ‘grievances’ Bin Laden sought to exploit were valid.”

Lake does not address my actual concern: that Emerson then goes on to characterize my recognition of such grievances as “a rationalization of the violent attacks against the U.S.”

I’m not alone in recognizing that Bin Laden uses legitimate grievances in the Muslim world to further his twisted and un-Islamic agenda. The entities whose opinions parallel mine--the 9/11 Commission, White House and Department of State—certainly cannot be accused of rationalizing violent attacks against the U.S.

No wonder Emerson lawyered up the second I challenged him.

The Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, aka the 9/11 Commission Report, notes, “[Bin Laden] also stresses grievances against the United States widely shared in the Muslim world…. He spoke of the suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War, and he protested U.S. support of Israel.”

This reality also gets an indirect nod in September 2002’s National Security Strategy of the United States, which can be viewed on the web site of the White House, when it reads: “In many regions, legitimate grievances prevent the emergence of a lasting peace. Such grievances deserve to be, and must be, addressed within a political process. But no cause justifies terror.”

Also, the U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, in a discussion about breaking apart Al-Qaeda, notes, “Disaggregation [Saylor’s note: to separate into its component parts] breaks the links in the chain that exploit ordinary people’s grievances and manipulates them into becoming terrorists. It seeks to provide those who are already radicalized with a way out and to create pathways for alienated groups to redress their legitimate grievances without joining the terrorist network.”

Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations on May 10, 2006, Former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and close associate of President Bush, Karen Hughes said, “We must do the same for terrorism and make the notion of killing oneself in order to kill others a matter of shame - never honor. Decent people throughout the world must be of one voice in clearly stating that no grievance, no matter how legitimate --- and there are many legitimate grievances in the world - but none of them can ever justify the targeting and killing of innocents.

To deny that many in the Muslim world feel that America’s Israel-biased role in the Israel-Palestine conflict is a legitimate grievance simply proves that the 1991 New York Times Book Review author who said that Emerson’s work was "marred by factual errors...that betray an unfamiliarity with the Middle East and a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias" was—and remains--right on the money.

Recognizing these legitimate grievances as such does not weaken us or justify attacks upon our nation or citizens. As the National Security Strategy says, “… no cause justifies terror.”

However, by recognizing these grievances we present ourselves with the opportunity of working to fix the problem. Thus, we could deprive Al-Qaeda and other anti-American forces of one tool they use to recruit people to their mindset.

I think that would be a good thing.

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