Friday, May 2, 2014

Tony Blair on the Islamist Threat

by Mark Durie

Tony Blair delivered a major speech on April 23 entitled, “Why the Middle East Matters”. In summary, he argued that the Middle East, far from being a “vast unfathomable mess” is deep in the throes of a multi-faceted struggle between a specific religious ideology on the one hand, and those who want to embrace the modern world on the other. Furthermore, the West, blinded up until now as to the religious nature of the conflict, must take sides: it should support those who stand on the side of open-minded pluralistic societies, and combat those who wish to create intolerant theocracies.

In his speech Blair makes a whole series of substantial points:

He states that a ‘defining challenge of our time’ is a religious ideology which he calls ‘Islamist’, although he is not comfortable with this label because he prefers to distance himself from any implication that this ideology can be equated with Islam itself. He worries that “you can appear to elide those who support the Islamist ideology with all Muslims.”

He considers Islamism to be a global movement, whose diverse manifestations are produced by common ideological roots.

He rejects Western non-religious explanations for the problems caused by Islamist ideology, including the preference of “Western commentators” to attribute the manifestations of Islamism to “disparate” causes which have nothing to do with religion. Likewise he implies that the protracted conflict over Israel-Palestine is not the cause of this ideology, but rather the converse is the case: dealing with the wider impact of Islamist ideology could help solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

According to Blair, what distinguishes violent terrorists from seemingly non-violent Islamists – such as the Muslim Brotherhood – is simply “a difference of view as to how to achieve the goals of Islamism”, so attempts to draw a distinction between political Islamist movements and radical terrorist groups are mistaken. Blair considers that the religious ideology of certain groups like the Brotherhood, which may appear to be law-abiding, “inevitably creates the soil” in which religio-political violence is nurtured.

He considers “Islamism” to be a major threat everywhere in the world, including increasingly within Western nations. The “challenge” of Islamism is “growing” and “spreading across the world” and it is “the biggest threat to global security of the early 21st Century.”

Because of the seriousness of the threat of this religio-political ideology, Blair argues that the West should vigorously support just about anybody whose interests lie in opposing Islamists, from General Sisi in Egypt to President Putin in Russia. He finds it to be an absurd irony that Western governments form intimate alliances with nations whose educational and civic institutions promote this ideology: an obvious example of this would be the US – Saudi alliance.

In all this, one might be forgiven for thinking that Blair sounds a lot like Geert Wilders, except that, as he takes pains to emphasize, he emphatically rejects equating Islamism with Islam. Tony Blair and Geert Wilders agree that there is a serious religious ideological challenge facing the world, but they disagree on whether that challenge is Islam itself.My Blair’s speech is aimed at people who do not wish to be thought of as anti-Musilm, but who need to be awakened to the religious nature of the Islamist challenge. He is keen to assure his intended audience that if they adopt his thesis they would not be guilty of conflating those who support radical Jihadi violence with all Muslims.Two key assumptions underpin Blair’s dissociation of Islamism the religio-political ideology from Islam the religion.

First, Blair presupposes that Islamism is not “the proper teaching of Islam”. It may, he concedes, be “an interpretation”, but it is a false one, a “perversion” of the religion, which “distorts and warps Islam’s true message.” He offers two arguments to support this theological insight.One is that there are pious Muslims who agree with him: “Many of those totally opposed to the Islamist ideology are absolutely devout Muslims.”

This is a fallacious argument. It is akin to asserting that Catholic belief in the infallibility of the Pope cannot be Christian merely because there are absolutely devout protestant Christians who totally oppose this dogma. The fact that there are pious Muslims who reject Islamism is not a credible argument that Islamism is an invalid interpretation of Islam.

Blair’s other argument in support of his belief that Islamism is a perversion of Islam is an allegation that Christians used to hold similarly abhorrent theologies: “There used to be such interpretations of Christianity which took us years to eradicate from our mainstream politics.” This is a self-deprecating variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy, in which another’s argument is attacked by accusing them of hypocrisy. Here Blair rhetorically directs the ad hominem attack against himself and his culture. In essence, he is saying “It would hypocritical of us to regard Islamist ideology as genuinely Islamic, because (we) Christians used to support similarly pernicious theologies in the past (although we do not do so today).”

This logic is equally fallacious: observations about the history of Christian theology, valid or not, prove nothing about what is or is not a valid form of Islam.

Blair’s second key assumption is a widely-held view about the root cause of “the challenge”. The fundamental issue, he argues, is people of faith who believe they and only they are right and do not accept the validity of other views. Such people believe that “there is one proper religion and one proper view of it, and that this view should, exclusively, determine the nature of society and the political economy.” “It is not about a competing view of how society or politics should be governed within a common space where you accept other views are equally valid. It is exclusivist in nature.”

Hilary Clinton has expressed a very similar understanding of extremist religionists, who “define religion in such a way that if you do not believe what they want you to believe, then what you are doing is not practicing religion, because there is only one definition of religion.”

Such views about religion may reflect the secularist Zeitgeist, but they offer a very weak explanation for the challenge of radical Islam. The problem is not that Islamists believe they and only they are right. The problem is all the rest of what they believe.Consider this: Tony Blair himself believes his goal is valid, true and worth fighting for, namely a tolerant, open, democratic society, and the Islamists’ goal of a sharia society is invalid. He does believe that his view should determine the nature of society. Likewise many religious groups believe that they follow the one true religion, including the Catholic Church, which Tony Blair formally joined in 2007: Mother Theresa of Calcutta certainly did not consider alternative religious views equally valid to Catholic dogma. But none of this certainty of belief implies that Tony Blair or Catholics in general are disposed to become terrorists, cut hands off thieves or kill apostates.

Blair’s argument manifests the paradox of tolerance. His vision of a good society is one in which people must respect the views of others as “equally valid”. At the same time he argues that we should disallow and combat Islamism because it is “perverse”. He is asking for Islamism not to be tolerated because it is intolerant.If Blair’s explanation for Islamist nastiness is flawed, what then is the explanation? This takes us back to Islam itself. Does Blair’s position on Islam hold water?

Blair’s arguments for his positive view of Islam are weak. The validity of Islamism does not rest or fall on whether there are pious Muslims who accept or reject it, nor on whether Christians have advocating equally perverse theologies in the past. In the end, Islam as a religion – all mainstream Muslim scholars would agree – is based upon the teachings of the Sunna (the example and teaching of Muhammad) and the Koran. Islam’s religious validity in the eyes of its followers stands and falls on how well it can be justified from those authorities.There are at least three respects in which Islamist ideologies claim strong support from Islam – that is, from the Koran and Muhammad.

One is the intolerance and violence in the Islamic canon. The Koran states “Kill them / the polytheists wherever you can find them (Sura 9:5, 2:191). Muhammad, according to Islamic tradition, said “I have been sent with a sword in my hand to command people to worship Allah and associate no partners with him. I command you to belittle and subjugate those who disobey me …” He also said to his followers in Medina, “Kill any Jew who falls into your power.” Following in Muhammad’s footsteps, one of Muhammad’s most revered companions and successors as leader of the Muslim community, the Caliph Umar, called upon the armies of Islam to fight non-Muslims until they surrender or convert, saying “If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency.”

It will not do, in the face of many such statements found in the Koran and the traditions of Muhammad, to throw one’s hands up in the air and say there are also bad verses in the Bible. If Jesus Christ had said such things as Muhammad did, Christianity’s political theology would look very different today and medieval Christian Holy War theology – developed initially in response to the Islamic jihad – would have come into being as part of the birth-pangs of the religion, just as the doctrine of the Islamic jihad did in the history of Islam.

Islamist apologists find it relatively easy to win young Muslims over to their cause precisely because they have strong arguments at their disposal from the Koran and Muhammad’s example and teaching. Their threatening ideology is growing in influence because it is so readily supported by substantial religious foundations. Islamism may not be the only interpretation of Islam, but by any objective measure, it is open for Muslims to hold it, given what what is in their canon.

Blair makes a telling over-generalisation when he states that Islamist ideology is an export from the Middle East. Another important source has been the Indian sub-continent. Today Pakistanis today are among the most dynamic apologists for Islamism. Abul A’la Maududi, an Indian (later Pakistani) Islamic teacher and founder of Jamaat-e-Islami was writing powerful texts to radicalise Muslims more than 70 years ago – including his tract Jihad in Islam (first published in 1927). His works remain in widespread use as tools of radicalization by Islamist organisations. Maududi’s theological vision was driven, not by Middle Eastern influences or Saudi petrodollars, but by his life-long study of the Koran and the example of Muhammad. The spiritual DNA of Maududi’s Islamist theology was derived from the Islamic canon itself.

The second point to understand about Islamist ideologies is that the conflation of politics and religion, which is one of Blair’s main objections to Islamism, has always been accepted as normative by the mainstream of Islamic theology. It is orthodox Islam. As Bernard Lewis pointed out, the separation of church and state has been derided by most Muslim thinkers since the origins of Islam: “Separation of church and state was derided in the past by Muslims when they said this is a Christian remedy for a Christian disease. It doesn’t apply to us or to our world.”

The third point about Islamist ideologies is that their vision of a closed society in which non-Muslims are second-class participants is in lock-step with the conservative mainstream of Islamic thought. Here again Bernard Lewis: “It is only very recently that some defenders of Islam began to assert that their society in the past accorded equal status to non-Muslims. No such claim is made by spokesmen for resurgent Islam, and historically there is no doubt that they are right. Traditional Islamic societies neither accorded such equality nor pretended that they were so doing. Indeed, in the old order, this would have been regarded not as a merit but as a dereliction of duty. How could one accord the same treatment to those who follow the true faith and those who willfully reject it? This would be a theological as well as a logical absurdity.” (The Jews of Islam, Princeton University Press, 1987, p.4).

Tony Blair is right to call the world to engage with and reject radical Islamist ideology. This is a defining global challenge of our time. He is also correct to affirm that this ideology is religious. But he is profoundly mistaken to characterize it as un-Islamic. The fallacious arguments he puts forward for distinguishing Islam from Islamism are nothing but flimsy rhetoric. The hard evidence against separating Islamism from Islam is clear, the sentiments of some pious Muslims non-withstanding.

Islamism is a valid interpretation of Islam, not in the sense that it is the only ‘correct’ or ‘true’ one, but because its core tenets find ready and obvious support in the Islamic canon, and they align with core principles of 1400 years of Islamic theology. (To make this observation is not the same thing as saying that all pious Muslims are Islamists!)

Blair is right to call for the West to combat “radical Islam”, but the reason why “radical” is a correct term to use for this ideology is that radical means “of the root,” and Islamist ideas are deeply rooted in Islam itself. Islamism is a radical form of Islam. This explains why the radicalization project has been advancing with such force all over the world.

In order to combat radical Islamic views we do need to have a frank and open dialogue about the dynamics of radicalization. Blair is concerned about the damage being caused by denial about Islamism, but he indulges in his own form of blinkered thinking, which is just as unhelpful. He was right to identify Islamist ideology as the soil in which violent jihadi ideologies “inevitably” take root, but fails to identity mainstream Islam itself as the soil in which Islamism develops. In reality the Islamist movement is but the tip of the iceberg of the Islamic movement, a deeper and broader revival of Islam across the whole Muslim world.

When countering radical Islamic ideologies, Western leaders should refrain from putting themselves forward as experts on theology, who are somehow competent to rule on whether a particular interpretation of Islam is valid or “perverse”. There is something ridiculous about secular politicians ruling on which manifestations of Islam are to be judged theologically correct. As Taliban Cleric Abu Qutada once said, “I am astonished by President Bush when he claims there is nothing in the Quran that justifies jihad violence in the name of Islam. Is he some kind of Islamic scholar? Has he ever actually read the Quran?”

Ritual displays of respect for Islam should not be naively used as sugar to coat the pill of opposition to the objectionable beliefs and behaviour of some Muslims. Leaders need to be absolutely clear about what values they stand for, and insist on these values. They should not need to express a theological opinion about what is or is not valid Islam in order to challenge the anti-semitism of Palestinian school textbooks, the denial of basic religious rights to non-Muslim guest workers in Saudi Arabia, incitement against Christians in Egypt, the promotion of female genital mutilation in the name of Islam in the Maldives, or the UK practice of taking child brides.

In this post-secular world, our leaders need to “do God” with less naivety. They need to grasp that the inner pressure they feel to manifest respect for Islam whenever they object to some of its manifestations is itself a symptom of the ideology of dominance which powers the Islamist agenda. They should resist the pressure to mount an apology for Islam. The mullahs can do that.

Mark Durie


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Benghazi Smoking Gun Exposed

by Arnold Ahlert

The idea that the Obama administration willfully orchestrated a disinformation campaign with regard to the attacks in Benghazi has now been confirmed.

An email written by then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes and obtained by Judicial Watch contained four bullet-point “Goals” outlined as part of the strategy to contain the political damage engendered by the murder of four Americans on September 11, 2012 at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. One bullet-point in particular revealed the Obama administration’s deliberate crafting of a deceitful narrative following the incident. According to the Judicial Watch emails, the objective of the Obama administration was to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

The email was part of a series of 41 new Benghazi-related documents obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed June 21, 2013. That effort was aimed at gaining access to the documents used by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for her September 16 appearance on five different Sunday TV news programs. Rhodes’ email was sent on Friday, September 14, 2012 at 8:09 PM. It contained the following subject line: “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.”

“Now we know the Obama White House’s chief concern about the Benghazi attack was making sure that President Obama looked good,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And these documents undermine the Obama administration’s narrative that it thought the Benghazi attack had something to do with protests or an Internet video. Given the explosive material in these documents, it is no surprise that we had to go to federal court to pry them loose from the Obama State Department.”

Rhodes’ email was sent to several members of the administration’s inner circle. They included White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest, then-White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, then-White House Deputy Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, then-National Security Council Director of Communications Erin Pelton, Special Assistant to the Press Secretary Howli Ledbetter, and then-White House Senior Advisor and political strategist David Plouffe.

Another critical email contained in the documents was written by former Deputy Spokesman at U.S. Mission to the United Nations Payton Knopf. It was addressed to Susan Rice and sent on Sept. 12, 2012, at 5:42 PM. It provided a brief summary of the attack, and further revealed that State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland had characterized the compound assault as “clearly a complex attack.” This characterization undermined Rice’s contention that the attacks were “spontaneous.”

Nonetheless when Rice appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News and CNN she insisted, as she specifically stated on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” that “based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy–sparked by this hateful video.”

Sen. John McCain, who immediately followed Rice’s appearance, revealed the utter nonsense of her assertion. “Most people don’t bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons to a demonstration,” he explained. “That was an act of terror, and for anyone to disagree with that fundamental fact I think is really ignoring the facts.”

Not ignoring the facts. Making them up. As Judicial Watch explains:
The Judicial Watch documents confirm that CIA talking points, that were prepared for Congress and may have been used by Rice on “Face the Nation” and four additional Sunday talk shows on September 16, had been heavily edited by then-CIA deputy director Mike Morell. According to one email:
The first draft apparently seemed unsuitable….because they seemed to encourage the reader to infer incorrectly that the CIA had warned about a specific attack on our embassy. On the SVTS, Morell noted that these points were not good and he had taken a heavy hand to editing them. He noted that he would be happy to work with [then deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton]] Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to develop appropriate talking points.
This revelation appears to contradict written testimony given by Morell to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last April, during which he insisted that “there is no truth to the allegations that the CIA or I ‘cooked the books’ with regard to what happened in Benghazi and then tried to cover this up after the fact.” Morell also claimed it was Rice, not the CIA, who linked the video to the attack. “My reaction was two-fold,” he told Committee members, “One was that what she said about the attacks evolving spontaneously from a protest was exactly what the talking points said, and it was exactly what the intelligence community analysts believed. When she talked about the video, my reaction was, that’s not something that the analysts have attributed this attack to.”
Rhodes’ email blows Morell’s allegation out of the water, but a critical question remains unanswered: who did brief Rice in the aforementioned “prep call”?

A letter sent Monday night to the House and Senate foreign affairs committees from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and John McCain (R-AZ) addresses that issue. It asks both committees to compel the Obama administration to explain who briefed Rice for her talk show appearances, and whether anyone from the State Department or White House was involved. “How could former Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, during the five Sunday talk shows on September 16, 2012, claim that the attacks on our compounds were caused by a hateful video when Mr. Morell testified that the CIA never mentioned the video as a causal factor,” the letter inquired.
Graham characterizes the latest emails as “a smoking gun,” indicating White House efforts “to shape the story” of the Benghazi attacks and “to put a political stance on a disaster six weeks before an election.”

The White House says otherwise. In an explanation that strains credulity, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed the White House withheld Ben Rhodes’ email from Congress and the media because it didn’t deal directly with the Benghazi attack. “This document was explicitly not about Benghazi, but about the general dynamic in the Muslim world at the time,” he insisted. “The overall issue of unrest in the Muslim world and the danger posed by these protests … was very much a topic in the news.”

Yesterday, in a testy exchange with ABC News White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, Carney further declared that the White House urged Rice to focus on the video because her TV appearances were ostensibly supposed to address all of various protests sparked by that video, not just the murders in Benghazi. Karl ridiculed that assertion and reminded Carney that he had lied repeatedly in the past. “You stood there, time after time, and said that she was referring to talking points created by the CIA,” Karl stated. “Now we see a document that comes from the White House, not from the CIA, attributing the protests to the video.” In response, Carney continued to insist the protests outside American embassies were just as big a story, that Rice relied on CIA talking points, and the Rhodes’ email was part of the preparation to respond to the protests in general, not Benghazi.

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who believes the newly released emails completely undermine President Obama’s 2012 campaign narrative (i.e. “Al Qaeda is on the run”), also believes a more thorough investigation of Benghazi is warranted. “I think the Republicans have something here that really ought to be looked at,” he said Tuesday. “I just don’t know if there’s gonna be any interest in the mainstream media. They should, because this exposes a cover-up of a cover-up. The fact that it was redacted when the documents were asked for and only revealed by a court order is telling you this is a classic cover-up of a cover-up, and that is a serious offense.”
What Krauthammer is referring to is the reality that Rhodes’ email wasn’t included in the 100 pages of emails released by the administration last May, when Republicans refused to confirm John Brennan as CIA director until the “taking points” memos were released.

Yet Krauthammer’s other point about a lack of mainstream media interest is just as germane. Some of that lack may be driven by the reality that Ben Rhodes’ brother is CBS News President David Rhodes, who was not enamored with former CBS investigative report Sharyl Attkisson’s reporting on the attack, despite the fact that she had been one of the few reporters to follow the story wherever it led. Yesterday in interview with Glenn Beck, Attkisson said she was glad to see “a little more light” shed on that relationship, even as she bemoaned the incestuous relationship between Big Government and Big Media, and the increasing level of intimidation aimed at journalists who refuse to abide that collaboration.

Unfortunately, many in the media are still willing to carry water for the White House. The George Soros-funded Media Matters insists Fox News is “distorting” the use of Ben Rhodes’ memo “to falsely suggest that the administration was lying about the Benghazi attacks for political gain.” Slate’s Dave Weigel claims the email “was largely redundant” and that the talking points blaming the attacks on a video “came from the CIA,” apparently ignoring Morrel’s testimony. Politico Magazine Deputy Editor Blake Hounshell tweeted, ”Can you point me to a credible, authoritative story saying the WH knowingly pushed a false narrative?” demonstrating a willful obliviousness to the efforts undertaken by Attkisson, Karl and Fox’s Catherine Herridge.

That’s water-carrying by commission. There’s also water-carrying by omission. On Tuesday, when this story first broke, CBS This Morning was the only network broadcast to cover it. ABC, CBS and NBC completely omitted the story from their evening broadcasts.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) spokesman, Catherine Frazier, expresses what must occur going forward. “This administration must be held accountable to telling the truth so that we can find closure, bring our attackers to justice, and prevent future attacks — and Hillary Clinton’s regrets are not enough,” she said. “All witnesses with knowledge of the attack including administration officials should be called to testify before a joint select committee so we can once and for all know the truth about what happened.”

A select committee on Benghazi has been thwarted by House Majority leader John Boehner (R-OH), who as recently as April 7 still insisted that the four separate committees — Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight — are sufficient to investigate the matter. “There are four committees that are investigating Benghazi,” Boehner told Fox New’s Megyn Kelly “I see no reason to break up all the work that’s been done and to take months and months and months to create some select committee.” “But your own people want it,” Kelly countered. “You got 190 House Republicans whose say they need it.”

Boehner remained resolute.“I understand that,” he said. “At some point, that may — that may be required.” We are now at the point, Mr. Boehner.

Arnold Ahlert


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

PM to push Basic Law that will define Israel as 'Jewish state'

by Herb Keinon

In seemingly veiled response to US Secretary of State John Kerry's apartheid remarks, Netanyahu says that personal and civil rights of all Israelis – Jews and non-Jews – will be forever preserved.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu at Cabinet meeting. 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday that he will push forward foundational legislation of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Speaking in Tel Aviv's Independence Hall, where David Ben-Gurion declared the country's independence some 66 years ago, Netanyahu said the Declaration of Independence placed the Jewish identity of the state as one of the foundations of the life of the country.
"Unfortunately," he said, "there are those who do not recognize this natural right. They seek to shake the historic, more and legal justification of Israel as the national home of our people."

Netanyahu, whose comments come five days before Independence Day, said that one of his primary aims as prime minister is to fortify the status of Israel as "the national homeland of our people." A Knesset basic law on this matter, he said, would provide it with an important legal anchor.

"The State of Israel will always preserve full personal and civil equality for all citizens of the State of Israel, Jews and non-Jews alike, in a Jewish-democratic state," he said. ."

Just days after US Secretary of State warned that if a two-state solution was not achieved, Israel could become an apartheid state, Netanyahu said that in Israel personal and civil equality is ensured for all, something that distinguishes it in the region, and also beyond..

Netanyahu said he could not understand how those calling on Israel to make concessions in Judea and Samaria because of an "understandable desire" to prevent a bi-national state, then are opposed to defining Israel as the national home of the Jews.

"It is impossible to argue for the established of a national home for Palestinians in order to preserve the Jewish character of Israel, and at the same time oppose recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people," he said. Doing so, he added, would in the long run call into question Israel's right to exist.

Herb Keinon


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India's Impending Conservative Victory

by Richard L. Benkin

Few Americans are aware of the potentially earth-shaking events currently unfolding in India. The left-center Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has ruled India for all but eight of its 67 years of national existence, is about to be voted out of power in favor of the conservative opposition under the leadership of Narendra Modi. As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi turned his state into a pro-business economic miracle that accounts for 72 percent of India’s new jobs and has its lowest unemployment rate.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that we might be shooting ourselves in the foot.

Modi is a free-market capitalist and unapologetic opponent of radical Islam in both its open and surreptitious variants. He gave a speech recently in the Northeast Indian state of Assam promising immediate and strong action to stop the large scale infiltration of illegal migrants and Bangladesh’s anti-Hindu violence. “Assam lies next to Bangladesh, and Gujarat lies next to Pakistan,” he said. “People of Assam are troubled because of Bangladesh, and Pakistan is worried because of me.”

With 815 million potential voters, India’s voting began on April 7 and will run through May 12. Like Israel and the UK, India is a parliamentary democracy. People elect representatives to the lower legislative chamber (Lok Sabha), and the party with the most seats can form a new government and name the Prime Minister by controlling a majority. Because one party rarely wins the necessary 272 seats on its own, governments tend to have ruling coalitions.

While most of the parties are regional, two dominate. The ruling Congress Party and its United Progressive Alliance (UPA) have a European socialist flavor and the weak foreign policy that goes with it. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have a conservative, pro-business tilt with an anti-Communist, anti-Islamist foreign policy. A “third front,” led by communists, a political gadfly, and larger regional parties appeared to emerge this year; such that by the time I left India last month, it was clear that the BJP would garner the greatest number of seats but could be blocked from getting 272.

With over half the votes already cast, however, things have changed. Third front leaders have either discredited themselves or faded into insignificance. Congress is widely predicted to suffer its worst showing in decades due to a sagging and mismanaged economy, numerous scandals, and a sense that it is time for a change. Narendra Modi has come to embody that change. Indians across the social and religious spectrum are excited by this man. The latest poll, conducted by a major Indian TV network, has the BJP garnering 226 seats and its NDA coalition partners taking it to an absolute majority of 275.

The significance cannot be over-estimated. Absent a conservative majority, the BJP would be forced to cut deals with parties and personalities outside its coalition that could demand it adopt certain policies or refrain from others in exchange for their support. They could threaten to leave the coalition and bring down the government whenever a proposed action did not suit their interests. With a majority, Modi will re-shape India into an economic counterweight to China and a geopolitical counterweight to radical Islam. His free-market, anti-big government domestic policies and strong foreign policy are good news for the United States.

Then why are some Americans -- including some conservatives -- trying to push India back into leftist hands and a foreign policy that has failed to confront the twin threat of Islamist and Leftist terrorism?

A coalition of leftists and conservatives have combined to forward House Resolution 417, which one-sidedly targets Hindus; and “ignores the fact that 80% of attacks in India in 2012 were carried out by the Indian Mujahideen, with much of the remaining 20% carried out by Maoist terrorists,” according to the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). Ominously, 417 also calls for “minority” (read: Sharia) courts. The anti-Modi mania is based on discredited charges that he was complicit in Gujarat’s 2002 anti-Muslim riots. Several investigations and even India’s Supreme Court, a body lauded internationally for its judicial independence, have completely exonerated Modi of any wrong-doing, which also determined that “some human rights activists deliberately falsified evidence and concocted macabre incidents of violence.” The left has kept the drumbeat alive nonetheless and has seduced others to its side. It has won over Republicans like Frank Wolf (VA), Chris Smith (NJ), and Joe Pitts (PA) who are now wittingly or not helping radical Islamists and Maoist insurgents.

The left has reason to be concerned. A Prime Minister Modi will begin dismantling the costly and inefficient tangle of big government programs built up over decades of misrule, the same way President Ronald Reagan did at the start of his presidency. His foreign policy would be more concerned with overcoming threats than political correctness. For instance, although the India-Israel relationship has become a significant one, Indian rulers have appeased leftist and Muslim voters with a pro-Arab public stance. They voted in favor of the Palestinians’ UN statehood gambit; India’s President stood with Bashar Assad, and if you happen to be in the diplomatic section of New Delhi, you can see a building with a large sign that reads: “Embassy of the State of Palestine.” Modi, on the other hand, is openly and proudly pro-Israel. He once told me he would do any joint venture with Israel or the United States. He also scares the pants off the terrorists and their enablers. I have seen them shake close up at the prospect of a Prime Minister Modi.

Congressional conservatives, like Kevin Creamer and Trent Franks in this unholy alliance base their anti-Modi animus on the belief that he will be bad for Indian Christians, which does not make sense. Not only has there been no credible accusation of Modi even abetting anti-Christian actions, Indian Christians themselves are moving into the Modi camp. "Believers . . . don't have any difficulties with Modi. In fact, they applaud his developmental efforts," the head of the Jacobite Syrian Church told reporters. I’ve spoken with several Indian Christians, most religious, who voiced strong support for Modi.

I know Narendra Modi. He is a good man who has supported my human rights activities. He recently warned China to shed its “mindset of expansionism,” promised a tough stance toward Pakistan, and would be the only regional ally to fill the power vacuum created when the US quits Afghanistan. This plea is not for Modi; he is running away with the election. It is for us not to compromise our future and stand naively with Congress’s most radical left, like Jan Schakowsky, Raul Grijalva, and Barbara Lee (at times ranked its most liberal) and “Bagdad Jim” McDermott who famously stood with Saddam Hussein on the eve of our war with him.

Dr. Richard L. Benkin is a human rights activist (“human rights from the right”). To see if your Member of Congress is standing against a strong conservative bulwark in Asia, go to:{%22search%22%3A[%22hres417%22]}. (Note that two, Steve Chabot and Scott Perry withdrew as co-sponsors after learning the facts.)


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CAIR's Hypocrisy At America's Schools

by Abigail R. Esman

Earlier this month, the Muslim Students Association and the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) jointly hosted a Muslim Youth Leadership symposium at George Washington University, open to all Muslims aged 14-22. No featured speakers were publicly named for the event, but the panels and workshops are listed on CAIR's website – including the alluringly-titled, "How To Get What You Want: Politicking 101."

It's an appropriate topic for a CAIR event: the Hamas-linked organization is a champion at getting what it wants," and ironically, given the nature of this event and its venue, its officials have become particularly adept of late at "getting what they want" at schools and universities. Academia, you might even say, has become CAIR's latest target, and its newest tool – not only in its campaign to silence critics of Islam – but too, to promote and spread messages of pro-Muslim hate groups among American Muslim youth.

Best-known of CAIR's manipulations on college campuses is its recent success persuading Brandeis University president Frederick Lawrence to rescind his offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial Somali-born women's rights activist whose often-strident, but deeply insightful anti-Islam speeches Lawrence called "inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values."

But Brandeis was just one in a lengthening chain of such incidents. Simultaneous with the Brandeis affair, CAIR also drove Knox County, Tenn. to revoke permission for an event scheduled at a local high school, aimed, according to its organizer, ACT! For America, at informing the public about Sharia law. In a statement, Knox County Superintendent Jim McIntyre explained his decision: "The primary purpose of our school facilities is to provide a safe, healthy and comfortable learning environment for our students. When other uses of the facility begin to impinge on or interfere with the administration's ability to provide a suitable education atmosphere, it is necessary for us to reconsider that use."

In response, ACT! For America observed pointedly: "Why is it that Muslims engage in teaching about how good Islam is for Tennessee at the Cedar Bluff Library – a public building – but feel 'uncomfortable' when ACT! For America plans an event to show the opposite viewpoint at a public building?"

What ACT! neglected to point out was the salient fact that this is not just any public building, but a school – a forum for the exchange of ideas and for learning. So important is the "freedom of expression" in schools that even CAIR claims to champion it. Earlier this month, the organization successfully campaigned to defeat a measure that "would have restricted student groups at Maryland's public colleges and universities from supporting boycotts of foreign countries like Israel." While CAIR's support for the right to boycott is valid, its reasoning is less so, focusing "protest against Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and human rights abuses against Palestinians." (Note that it does not suggest supporting boycotts "of foreign countries like Iran" or other Islamic countries where human rights abuses are endemic.)

But evidently that "free expression" has its limits, at least for CAIR, which seems to find the free exchange of some ideas a threat. Take, for example, the goings-on in Ohio, where the nice people at CAIR are demanding an investigation into the activities of Oberlin College Arabic Professor Samir Amin Abdellatif, charging him with "anti-Muslim bigotry and crude stereotypes of Muslims in his writings and on campus.

Abdellatif gained notoriety with the (self)-publication of his treatise, The Unknown History of Islam, which CAIR claims is riddled with "outlandish conspiracy theories about the Muslim [sic] and promotes xenophobic views about Muslim immigration to the West." Oberlin, CAIR warned the school's president in a letter, risks "tarnishing" its reputation by keeping the tenured Abdellatif on its faculty.

But Abdellatif's colleagues see it differently, according to a source I contacted at Oberlin. Rather, he is known for emphasizing stereotypes of all kinds in his lectures, based on the belief that all stereotypes contain a kernel of truth. "That is what he teaches," according to my source. "So if Abdellatif's academic thesis about stereotypes is taken out of context, I suspect it could be seen as promoting anti-Muslim bigotry and crude stereotypes." But then, taking anything out of context can be viewed in any way one wants to twist it.

In truth, it is not Oberlin's reputation Abdellatif stands to tarnish, but that of the school's French Professor Ali Yedes. A Muslim, Yedes, who has been embroiled in several lawsuits involving the college, now stands accused of sexual harassment, and of issuing death threats to fellow French professor Eunjun (Grace) An.

Ms. An is now suing the college for failing to protect her from his menace.
Yedes accused An of "betraying" him in January, 2006, and informed her that "in his culture, he could have her killed because of his perceived mistreatment by her," the lawsuit said. Abdellatif, who claims that Yedes also told him he planned to kill "an Asian French professor at Oberlin," is a witness in her suit.

It gets more complicated. CAIR says Oberlin is also trying to fire the tenured Yedes, who serves as an adviser to the school's Muslim Student Association (MSA) – a national group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. And the school is counting on Abdellatif to testify against Yedes on their behalf.

Could this be why CAIR wants him gone? It is striking that an organization that claims to stand for justice and civil rights has done nothing to reprimand Professor Yedes for his alleged threats against Professor An. Or do their officials not view his statements, like Abdellatif's, as "outlandish" misrepresentations of Islam? Do they feel it is appropriate for students to be exposed to his views (as they are alleged), but not to those of ACT! For America – or, for that matter, Samir Abdellatif?

Perhaps so. CAIR officials have never indicated concern about the well-being of students exposed to the ideas expressed by various speakers at colleges around the country, all invited by local MSA chapters –speakers such as Abdel Malik Ali, who in 2006 told an audience at Chaffey College that Zionists, not the Danes, were behind the controversial Danish cartoons that caused worldwide rioting among Muslims that year.

Nor did they seem distressed when Mohammed Al Asi also condemned Israel and the Jews at the University of California, Irvine, stating, "It's about time we begin to open our eyes, see for ourselves, and identify this cancerous presence of the Israeli interest that has taken over the American body politic."

But maybe this is all part of what CAIR sees as "How To Get What You Want:" promote what you want people to hear, censor the rest, and manipulate the law and Constitution to serve your purposes. However, if CAIR plans to teach Muslim youth in America that they can and should use bullying and propaganda to "get their way," it is all the more important that we teach them otherwise. Unless we do, we'll find that they grow up to be, like CAIR itself, far more Islamist than American. And that is a risk we can't afford to take.

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.


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NYT Camouflages Real J Street

by Leo Rennert

In recent days, J Street, a liberal group with an anti-Israel agenda, has been lobbying hard to gain acceptance as a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish organizations. The main issue in contention was whether J Street merited inclusion inside the wide Jewish “tent” in America.

The hitch for J Street was that while it advertises itself as “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace,” it rarely lives up to its label. And with that kind of record, J Street was rejected by the umbrella of major Jewish organizations. And with that kind of record, J Street was rejected by the umbrella group of major Jewish organizations.  Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz contends that J Street is “neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace” and the history of J Street backs him up.

But that didn’t bother the New York Times, which ran a generally positive article about J Street that is short of illuminating its repeated positions outside the Jewish mainstream but fulsome about its alleged bona fides to become a member of the umbrella Conference of major U.S. Jewish groups. (“Vote Seen as Test of Jewish Group’s Inclusiveness” by Michael Paulson, April 30, page A3)

Paulson, ever so soft on J Street, describes it as a “dovish lobbying organization that has been critical of some Israeli policies.” Aside from this coy euphemism, Paulson devotes less than a single sentence on instances where J Street has been critical of Israel -- for its 2008 invasion of Gaza (no mention that the invasion of the Hamas-ruled coastal strip was in response to incessant rocket barrages against Israeli civilian targets) and for Israel’s opposition to Western negotiations with Iran (no mention that these negotiations already have yielded acceptance of Iran becoming a nuclear breakout power).

Beyond that, the real J Street record is the big omission in Paulson’s piece. For example, he omits any mention that:
  • J Street welcomed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s unity deal with the terrorist Hamas organization, which is officially committed to the killing of Jews and the destruction of Israel.
  • J street’s arrogance that it knows better what’s good for Israelis than Israel’s democratically-elected government does.
  • J Street lied that it wasn’t bankrolled by anti-Israel billionaire George Soros, but after being thoroughly exposed, admitted taking money from Soros.
  • J street actively lobbied Congress to oppose tough sanctions on Iran.
  • J Street offered to escort South African jurist Richard Goldstone and set up meetings for him on Capitol Hill. Goldstone had accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilian populations during the Gaza war. He later retracted his libel.
  • J Street lobbied against a U.S. veto of an anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. Security Council.
  • J Street honored Israeli soldiers who refused to obey orders.
  • J Street lobbied Congress not to fault widespread anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian school textbooks and media.
All this kept secret by the Times from its soft-gloves treatment of J Street

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers


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Museum is Ground Zero Mosque Rerun

by Jonathan S. Tobin

In 2010, a Muslim developer initiated a bitter controversy when he sought to build a Muslim community center and mosque on the site of one of the buildings that had been struck by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Those plans divided New Yorkers and people of faith as those who rightly asserted that this was, at best, an insensitive gesture were assailed as bigots who were part of a post 9/11 backlash against Muslims. As it turned out the entire dustup was all for nothing since the developer, Sharif El-Gamal, was all hot air and construction of the planned $100 million center and mosque at 45-51 Park Place never materialized. But though the money to build the center was a figment of El-Gamal’s imagination, he’s not finished trying to have a say about the Ground Zero area. As the New York Times reported today, he’s back with another, albeit more modest plan to build a Muslim institution at the site:
Sharif El-Gamal, the developer, said through a spokesman that instead of a $100 million, 15-story community center and prayer space, he now planned a smaller, three-story museum “dedicated to exploring the faith of Islam and its arts and culture.” The building would also include a sanctuary for prayer services and community programs.
To make the plan more attractive to neighbors, he said in a statement, he had commissioned a French architect, Jean Nouvel, winner of the 2008 Prizker Prize, to design the building at 45-51 Park Place, about two blocks from the former World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, and had included plans for a public green space.
It is entirely possible that El-Gamal is once again blowing smoke about this scheme since he may not have the funds needed to build this building anymore than he did of the previous plan. No timetable for construction exists and El-Gamal has yet to take down the existing building that was damaged by the debris from the Trade Center attack. But though the Times, which was a major editorial supporter of the center/mosque plan, takes it as a given that there will be less opposition to this plan, it is just as deserving of criticism.

Let’s specify that, as with the earlier project, there is nothing wrong with building another mosque in Manhattan or in the creation of a museum devoted to Islam. New York City has countless houses of worship and nearly as many institutions devoted to the arts and history and one more would probably be welcome. But the same objections that greeted the Ground Zero mosque plan apply here.

Why, we must ask, is it necessary to build such a museum in the shadow of the footprint of the 9/11 attacks? Is there no other place in New York with a vacant lot to be procured for this project?

The obvious answer to these questions is that the purpose of both projects was to alter the why [sic] Americans thought about 9/11. The goal is to shift it from being seen as a murderous attack on America motivated by variant of Islam to one that sought to disassociate the religion from this act of mass murder. In its place would be a different and false narrative that depicted American Muslims as the primary victims of the event because they were subjected to a post 9/11 backlash against Muslims.

As I wrote in the fall of 2010 when the mosque plan was first debated, the notion of a post-9/11 backlash is a myth. No credible study or set of statistics has ever been produced to back up this idea, which was been promoted by extremist Muslim groups and recycled by a credulous mainstream media. Far from victimizing American Muslims, both the U.S. government and the institutions of popular culture have gone out of their way to avoid not only falsely blaming innocent Muslims for 9/11 but have backed up the notion that Islam should not be tied to al-Qaeda. American Muslims were left in peace and spared, as they should have been, from any repercussions from this crime.

While the original mosque was put forward as a monument to tolerance, it was not clear for whom tolerance was being sought. The interfaith group supporting the plan seemed to be telling us that the real point of remembering 9/11 wasn’t so much to memorialize the victims of this act of Islamist terror but to stand as a warning to Americans not to think ill of any Muslims, including the substantial group that cheered the attack abroad.

We heard an echo of that sentiment last week when the group of interfaith clergy that supported the mosque rose up in protest against the soon-to-be opened National September 11 Memorial and Museum because of a film to be shown there about the rise of al-Qaeda that mentioned Islamists and the role of jihad in the attacks. No doubt those same clergy will be heard again praising the new plans for planting a Muslim institution in the Ground Zero neighborhood.

But there should be no mistake about what this is all about. Those seeking to impose a Muslim institution in this specific area are not interested in memorializing 9/11 or even providing New York with one more museum or mosque. They seek to alter the narrative of an unambiguous meaning of an unambiguous event. They wish to paint the United States and the American people as the perpetrators of a great wrong and to cast Muslims as the true victims.

No one should deny the right of Muslims to build a mosque or a museum but the campaign to impose one in the Ground Zero neighborhood is as insensitive as it is motivated by motives that have little to do with the needs of the community or genuine tolerance. Honoring the memory of the victims or business activity that shows that al-Qaeda failed to beat America is the only proper purpose of building in this area. The new plan is just as much of an insult to the families of the 9/11 victims, the people of New York, and the United States as the previous effort.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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The Fatah-Hamas Agreement

by Richard Kemp

There is the criminal failure of the international community, as both accomplice and accessory before the fact, to make any meaningful effort to prevent endless salvoes of terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians for over nine years.
As we saw with the Iranian arms shipment aboard the Klos-C last month, Iran's sponsorship of terrorism continues unabated -- even as the international community is rehabilitating its extremist regime.
Three hundred and thirty two drone attacks against Al Qaida and Taliban targets on Pakistani territory since 2005 demonstrate U.S. President Barack Obama's strong resolve against terrorists that threaten the United States. Only last week, the latest wave of air strikes launched or enabled by his government against Al Qaida networks in Yemen killed 55 suspected extremists, possibly including master bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri.

Of course no one expects the U.S. to send drones in reply to the news that the Palestinian Authority [PA], upon which he has lavished billions of dollars and thousands of hours of diplomacy, was going into business with Hamas, which the United States has branded a terrorist organization.

But one could hope for something more forceful from Washington than State Department spokesman Jen Psaki's weak and vacillating response in which she attempted to take the heat off Hamas and the PA by taking a gratuitous dig at Israel. "There have been unhelpful steps from both sides throughout this process," she said.

If the US response was feeble, the EU's was treacherous.

Like America and several other countries, the EU designates Hamas as a terrorist organization. Yet the spokesman for Catherine Ashton, EU foreign affairs head, actually welcomed the proposal to bring Hamas into the PA.

Though shameful, this is far from surprising. It is part of a lengthy pattern of witting or unwitting EU encouragement of Middle Eastern terrorism.

The EU has contributed its taxpayers' money to paying the salaries of convicted Palestinian terrorists via unconditional donations to the PA amounting to billions of dollars since 1994. Some of this money has also been spent on school textbooks, television programs and other PA propaganda that incite hatred and terrorism against Israel.

Ashton and the EU have called repeatedly for an end to the Israeli-Egyptian security operation on land and sea around Gaza. The operation is designed to prevent predominantly Iranian-supplied munitions and materiel for terrorism from entering the Gaza Strip, and to stop Gaza terrorists and weapons moving to attack Israeli or Egyptian targets.

At the same time, the EU, like the UN, has usually remained mute in the face of volley after volley of Iranian-supported rocket attacks from Gaza directed against the civilian population of Israel. These rockets are fired mainly by Hamas and their terrorist bedfellows, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Silence and inaction by such significant international bodies as the UN and the EU must, in these circumstances, add up to at least a degree of culpability.

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Peace Process, seems to have swallowed Abbas's suggestion to him that reconciliation with Hamas will be on the basis of "recognition of Israel, non-violence and adherence to previous agreements." On that "understanding," the UN, like the EU, apparently welcomes and even supports the prospect of a terrorist group's incorporation into the PA.

Were Hamas indeed to commit -- plausibly -- to such undertakings, then Israel could of course continue peace negotiations and cooperation with the PA on current terms. But other than Abbas's words to Serry, there is no indication of this and, in the real world, Hamas is not likely even to consider such conditions.

Prime Minister Netanyahu therefore had no choice other than to suspend the peace process. This was his obligation to the Israeli people and to the international community. How could he possibly continue to negotiate with an entity that is itself negotiating with a vicious, murderous and unrelenting terrorist group hell-bent on the destruction of Israel and outlawed around the world?

Of course Abbas knew full well when he agreed to unity with Hamas that this would end the peace negotiations. But this is only the latest in a series of steps that Abbas has taken to sabotage the peace process. He rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's framework principles last month; he has repeatedly refused to discuss PA recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people; and at the end of March he initiated a move to join 15 international organizations, contravening an agreement to make no unilateral moves in the international arena during the period of the peace negotiations.

One of the greatest challenges in the peace process, should it be resumed at some point, is resolving Israel's security concerns in the West Bank. Since the Israel Defense Forces left Gaza in 2005, Palestinians have fired into Israel over 8,000 rockets, killing 44 Israelis and injuring more than 1,600.
A damaged apartment building in Ashdod, following a direct hit by a rocket fired from Gaza, in November 2012. (Image source: IDF)

In addition, Gaza terrorists have seized every available opportunity for other forms of attack against Israeli soldiers and civilians including kidnappings, shootings, suicide bombs, anti-tank missiles and Improvised Explosive Devices [IEDs].

Iran, sworn to Israel's destruction, as are its Gaza-based proxies, has funded, armed, energized and directed both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As we saw with the Israeli interdiction of the Iranian arms shipment aboard the Klos-C only last month, Iran's sponsorship of terrorism continues unabated -- even as the international community is rehabilitating its extremist regime.

Especially in a region and among neighbours that are becoming even more unstable, violent and unpredictable, Israel must ensure that in the event a Palestinian state should ever reach fruition, the West Bank does not become a second Gaza. The bloody consequences of that for the Israeli people would be far greater than from anything Hamas could hurl out of the Strip.

Kerry has proposed international troops to provide security against attacks on Israel from the West Bank. Few Israelis believe that they could rely on such a force to protect them. There are the historical precedents for the failure of peacekeeping forces in the region and beyond, especially when the going gets tough. And in the West Bank, the going would get very tough very soon and very often.

There is the criminal failure of the international community, as both accomplice and accessory before the fact, to make any meaningful effort to prevent endless salvoes of lethal terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians for over nine years.

Worse still, when Israel has been forced to respond to protect its citizens, it has been stabbed in the back by the international community, who have accused it of war crimes.

The UN's ill-conceived and deeply flawed 2009 Goldstone Report, for example, amounted to nothing less than incitement to terrorism.

And then there is the spectacle that we have witnessed over the past few days, of the pusillanimous and equivocating international response to plans for an active and violent terrorist group to join the PA.

Confronted by world leaders who lack the moral courage to face down terrorists whom even they themselves have designated as such, Israel is entirely right in its assumption that when it comes to security it can rely only on its own moral strength and its own armed forces.

Colonel Richard Kemp spent most of his 30-year career in the British Army fighting terrorism and insurgency, including in Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia, and Northern Ireland. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003. He was also involved in the direction of national policy at the highest level, working at the Joint Intelligence Committee and as a member of COBRA, the UK national crisis committee. He writes regularly for The Times and speaks worldwide on terrorism, international security and other issues.


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