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.

Emerson Lawyers Up, Part 1

Steven Emerson is a self-proclaimed “terror-expert.”

As far back as 1991, The New York Times Book Review characterized his research and conclusions as being "marred by factual errors...that betray an unfamiliarity with the Middle East and a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias." (New York Times, 5/19/91)

After the 1995 terror attack in Oklahoma City led by Timothy McVeigh—not a Muslim--Emerson concluded, “It was Islamic extremists who mounted this attack.” (CNBC’s Riviera Live, 4/19/1995)

Yet another false assertion Emerson made in 1998 resulted in him being compelled to pay California journalist Reese Erlich $3,000 and issue a statement characterizing his own “statement” as “incorrect.”

With that history, it was no surprise that when Emerson mentioned me recently on Capitol Hill, he drew a conclusion that was way, way off mark.

Here is the letter a sent to him, which contains his quote about me:

Mr. Emerson:

I am writing to request that you correct a serious factual error in your July 31, 2008, testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

While you are entitled to your opinion, characterizing my statement to Ambassador Hughes as “a rationalization of the violent attacks against the U.S.” is a creative leap rivaling the imagination of the greatest authors of fiction.

In reality, I concur fully with the August 2005 anti-terror fatwa endorsed by CAIR and many other Muslims groups, which reads in part: “Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not ‘martyrs...’ Further, I concur with an October 4, 2003 CAIR news release that describes a suicide bombing in a Haifa restaurant that killed at least 19 people, including three children as “particularly loathsome.”

On pg. 25 of your testimony, you assert: “Saylor stated that Bin Laden ‘sought to exploit legitimate Muslim grievances.’ [Ambassador Karen] Hughes did not challenge Saylor’s rationalization of the violent attacks against the U.S. by referring to the motivations of blood thirsty terrorists as ‘legitimate Muslim grievances.’ The only way these Muslim grievances could be considered ‘legitimate’ would be if one equated the failure of the U.S. to become a Muslim country as ‘legitimate.’”

Callously inserting such patently false allegations into your testimony diminishes the integrity of the record of the U.S. Congress.

It is well known that Al-Qaeda and other anti-American forces exploit Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory to further their own twisted and un-Islamic agenda. As recently as June 3, 2008, Secretary of State Rice acknowledged the occupation when speaking to attendees of an American Israel Public Affairs Committee banquet, stating: “…the only responsible policy is to work with decent Palestinians who want and should be able to end the occupation that began in 1967….”

It is also well-established that many in the Muslim world perceive America’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as favoring Israel.

My assertion, which I believe to be fully in America’s national security interest, is that, if our nation takes a leading role in guiding the Israelis and Palestinians to finalizing a just and lasting peace, this will deprive Al-Qaeda and other anti-American forces of a tool they use to bring people into their murderous mindset: the allegation that Americans do not care about Palestinian suffering.

The last line of your above quoted testimony statement is obscure, but seems to question my allegiance to my nation and its Constitution.

I refer you to an op-ed I authored for July 4, 2005 in which I wrote:

“I and many other Americans are deeply disturbed by events in Iraq, by reports of torture and desecration of the Quran in Guantanamo Bay, by Patriot Act abuses, by the rising tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society, and by domestic and international policies that seem to create more problems than they solve.

“But my love for America is not diminished because it is sometimes flawed. I love my nation because, despite its flaws, the majority of its people remain committed to tolerance and respect for one another, whatever their faith or viewpoint.

“After the 9/11 attacks, my neighbors could have turned their anger on me as a Muslim. They did not. They came to me and offered both support and their horror that someone would twist my faith in such an evil manner.

“But of greatest inspiration to me are the words written in 1998 by a Muslim 10th grader living in California. Following the attack on the USS Cole, he wrote a letter to Osama bin Laden. In that letter he wrote: ‘If you are keen to murder Americans, kill us before you kill non-Muslim Americans. Bomb our mosques and Islamic Centers. We are Americans as much as others.’”

Your prompt action in issuing a public retraction and apology on this issue is appreciated. I am BCC’ing appropriate congressional staff to ensure that they are aware of your error.


Corey P. Saylor

The Taliban and Educating the Future

Yesterday, a piece titled “Militancy Spills Over into Pakistan’s Swat Valley” was aired on National Public Radio.

This particular line in the report stood out to me: “Nearly 100 girls' schools have been torched by the Taliban in the same period.”

While there is much criminal about the Taliban, this act of keeping girls uneducated is particularly vile and out of line with Islam.

The Prophet said: "Indeed are you not all guardians? And each of you is responsible for your flocks. So the leader who is in authority over the people is a guardian, and he is responsible for his flock, and a man is guardian over the members of his house, and he is responsible for his flock, and the woman is a guardian over the members of her husband's household and his children, and she is responsible for them... "(Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)

This responsibility for children is part of why a mother is three times more important than a father. When asked who was most important in a family the Prophet said "Your mother, next your mother, next your mother, and then your father." (Sunan of Abu-Dawood) He also said that paradise is at your mother’s feet. The Quran, Islam's revealed text, states: "And revere the wombs that bore you, for God is ever watchful over you." (4:1)

So the Taliban’s vision is to keep the primary guardian of the children, a person three times more important than a father, uneducated.

One wonders how they intend to keep their society going when their children are being brought up by illiterate guardians.

"Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim,” said Prophet Muhammad. The first revealed word of the Quran is “Read.”

Educating girls, not burning their schools, must be a Muslim’s priority. I look forward to the day the Taliban is a badly written footnote in a history textbook being read by the woman who cured cancer.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Detroit Free Press: Amendment to bill could serve terrorists' interest

Amendment to bill could serve terrorists' interest
By Corey Saylor
[As published in the Detroit Free Press on 8/01/2008.]

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, recently attached an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act that may unintentionally legitimize Al Qaeda and other anti-American forces.

Passed by a vote of 249-180, Hoekstra's amendment says that "none of the funds ... appropriated by this Act may be used to prohibit or discourage the use of the words or phrases 'jihadist,' 'jihad,' 'Islamo-fascism,' 'caliphate,' 'Islamist,' or 'Islamic terrorist' by or within the intelligence community or the Federal Government."

This amendment needs to be removed.

Many experts, including the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, find it misguided, and Hoekstra's arguments for it unsupported.
In January, the Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a guide called "Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims," and in March, the National Counterterrorism Center produced a similar publication called "Words that Work and Words that Don't: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication."

According to these recommendations, by using phrases such as "Islamic terrorism," U.S. officials may be "unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesman (sic) for ordinary Muslims." The report also urges "caution in using terms such as 'jihadist,' 'Islamist,' and 'holy warrior' as grandiose descriptions," to avoid associating acts of violence or terrorism with religious concepts.

On the House floor, Hoekstra bitterly complained that "the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Department of Homeland Security have issued memos imposing speech codes."

The DHS document actually "outlines recommendations," and the NCTC document says its suggestions are "not binding."

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a letter to other members of Congress opposing Hoekstra's amendment, saying, "These are precisely the terms that Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders use routinely to describe their actions against the United States. We should not let them define this debate and claim a false mantle of legitimacy."

So this argument is not, as Hoekstra asserts, about creating "speech police" or "the politically correct politicization of our nation's intelligence community." It's about having America's spokespeople and soldiers smartly use language that defines Al Qaeda and other groups as thugs and criminals. This is done not because we worry about offending sensitivities, but because it serves the strategic purpose of isolating extremists and removing the false cloak of religiosity that they use to justify their barbarism.

COREY SAYLOR is national legislative director for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties organization. He may be contacted at:

Two additional points that were edited to save space:

*A May 23, 2006 National Defense University paper written by Dr. Douglas E. Streusand and LTC Harry D. Tunnell concurs says, “Calling our enemies jihadis and their movement a global jihad thus indicates that we recognize their doctrines and actions as being in the path of God…”

*The Department of the Army’s counterinsurgency field manual supports considering how our words and actions impact the goals we are trying to accomplish noting that “cultural awareness” is an “important competency.” It then goes on to say, “Effective small-unit leaders adapt to new situations, realizing their words and actions may be interpreted differently in different cultures.”

One additional point I learned after I wrote the op-ed:

*"How Terrorist Groups End" a paper published by RAND corporation on July 28, 2008 recommends: "Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors."

Another Update:
* Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in September of 2007 former CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid: “I mean, even adding the word Islamic extremism, or qualifying it to Sunni Islamic extremism, or qualifying it further to Sunni Islamic extermism as exemplified by government such as Bin Laden, all make it very, very difficult because the battle of words is meaningful, especially in the Middle East to people. And so, I do think, and I had a chance to get to know many of the regional leaders out there. They clearly understand that we, collectively, are fighting a problem that they don’t want to win, that we don’t want to win. The problem that we have to face is how do we work together to keep this problem from becoming mainstream.”

The video is available here and on C-Span’s website.