Friday, July 20

John McCain: "There are layers of the Muslim Brotherhood we can work with." Michele Bachmann, Huma Abedin, and America's tangled defense policy

"Misguided Pentagon officials, including Mr. Islam and Mr. England, have initiated an aggressive 'outreach' program to U.S. Muslim groups that critics say is lending credibility to what has been identified as a budding support network for Islamist extremists, including front groups for the radical Muslim Brotherhood."
-- The Washington Times, January 4, 2008

Initially I was reluctant to use the quote I featured in the title of this post because I couldn't adequately source it. Senator McCain made the remark about a month ago, during a period when it seemed he was appearing on a different news show almost every day to promote strong U.S. military intervention in Syria. My best guess is that I heard him make the statement on BBC World News America, but don't hold me to that.

In any case Mr McCain's words about the Muslim Brotherhood were almost an echo of what he'd told a weekend anchor on a FNC show when he was promoting strong U.S. intervention in Libya: "We can work with these people," meaning rebels who were trying to topple Muammar Gaddafi. He added that one of the rebel leaders had even attended university in the USA, as if this was proper vetting.

Despite the inadequate sourcing for his remark about the Muslim Brotherhood, I decided to mention it when I heard him publicly defend Huma Abedin, who is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's closest aide. I don't recall that he mentioned U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann by name but Mr McCain's defense was clearly a response to a question that Ms Bachmann had raised about ties that Ms Abedin's family is rumored to have to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr McCain's defense omitted the fact that Ms. Bachmann's question was raised in the context of a much broader issue: the U.S. government's practice of employing Muslim advisors without more carefully investigating the advisors' ties to Islamist and jihadist causes, and without setting a high bar for such ties when it comes to security clearances.

Unfortunately Ms Bachmann has a scattered style of exposition, which made it easy for Mr McCain and other critics of her remark to divert public attention from her main points. Yesterday on his radio show Glenn Beck gave Ms Bachmann the opportunity to attempt to clarify her points, with mixed results. But with patience the reader can discern that she indeed has valid points. From the show's transcript:
GLENN: Okay. So tell me what happened. You and who else wrote a letter to the inspectors general’s office and said, “There are some questions here that need to be addressed.”

CONGRESSWOMAN BACHMANN: That’s right. It was three members of the intelligence committee: Myself, Lynn Westmoreland from Georgia, Tom Rooney from Florida. And two members of the judiciary committee: Trent Franks of Arizona and Louie Gohmert of Texas. All signed onto a letter.

We asked numerous questions of the federal government because a letter was sent ‑‑ well, let me just back up. After the Fort Hood tragedy, a report was issued that said the real problem in our government is that we are not teaching FBI agents or our military to recognize radical Islam. So that’s what we need to do. We need to teach about it.

Well, in response to that, 50 ‑‑ over 50 Muslim organizations wrote a letter requesting that the White House start a task force to stop that [inquiry] from happening. Five days after the White House got this letter, this October 19 letter ‑‑ and people can see it on my website, or maybe you have it on The Blaze ‑‑ five days after the White House got this letter from the 50 Muslim groups, they started the purge of the federal government.

Let me tell you, the federal government doesn’t do anything in five days. But [presumably within five days] they started the purge of the FBI. So now the FBI, who are supposed to be trained in [the knowledge of] radical Islam -- elements [of the agency] have been purged of their training materials. So they are no longer being taught about what radical Islam is in order to be able to truly identify it ahead of time. This is serious. This is also happening throughout our United States military, Department of Justice, and Homeland Security.

And the word “purge” isn’t my word. That’s the word used by the 50 Muslim organizations. They demanded that the president purge the training materials and the trainers. And so already people have been fired who formerly were teaching what radical Islam is. They’ve been fired or they’ve been reassigned. And [the Muslim organizations] ask that the library be purged. Americans don’t purge libraries, but they demanded that the FBI’s library be purged.

All of this was happening, and so we wrote a letter to the inspectors general asking the question: Don’t you think you should look into the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and what it is they’re seeking to do?
Ms. Bachmann had a great deal more to get off her chest about the attempt to quash the kind of inquiry that she and other members of Congress were proposing. But to move to her defense of her remark about Huma Abedin. Again, from the Beck show transcript:
CONGRESSWOMAN BACHMANN: [Abedin] is the chief aide for the ‑‑ to the Secretary of State, and we quoted from a document, and this has been well reported all across Arab media, that her father ‑‑ her late father who’s now deceased was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Her brother was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and her mother was a part of what’s called the Muslim Sisterhood.

It would be, we have requirements to get a high level security clearance. One thing that the government looks at are your associations, and in particular your family associations. And this applies to everyone. It would be the same that is true with me. If my family members were associated with Hamas, a terrorist organization, that alone could be sufficient to disqualify me from getting a security clearance.

So all we did is ask, Did the federal government look into her family associations before she got a high level security clearance?[...]
As you can see from the quote I featured from the Washington Times, complaints about the U.S. government's use of advisors with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood predate the Obama administration. So Ms Bachmann isn't talking through her hat.

However, she and colleagues are raising questions that should have been raised as early as the 1970s, when the American government became dependent on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to prop up the U.S. dollar. The greatest downside of the dependence was that Washington studiously ignored the fact that the Saudi government was sowing the world with the most radical form of Islamic teachings and with anti-American propaganda. The blindness came back to bite the American people even before 9/11, and left the USA wide open to al Qaeda's 9/11 attack. So while I sympathize with Rep. Bachmann's concerns and outrage, they've arrived far too late in the day.

As for Senator McCain, his habit of wanting the U.S. defense establishment to work with people with questionable motives toward the United States represents a systemic problem in Washington.  During the Cold War, the U.S. government leaned heavily on a strategy of supporting strongmen who would resist the Soviet Union or at least put on a show of doing so.

The strategy was based on the theory that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' Yet somehow over the course of the Cold War the theory got garbled. The idea is to befriend enemies of your enemy -- not to befriend enemies, in the wild hope that they want to destroy other of their enemies before they try destroy you.

Washington's failure to untangle the theory has brought Americans to where we are today, which is that U.S. defense policy is America's greatest security threat.


Unknown said...

'Unfortunately Ms Bachmann has a scattered style of exposition.."

Albeit these are only excerpts but I saw nothing and read nothing 'scattered'. The explanation was clear and concise:
1)There has been a "purge"--people, documents, mind-set--in the FBI Hunint Section
2)Abedin's family ties make her ineligible for the position she holds...
Still, clear and concise or no Michelle Bachmann will all too soon be labeled a racist bigot by the very people who should be on her side and should know better!
They will not take back their mordant miapprehensions of Michelle Bachmann even were Huma Abedin to decollate Hillary Clinton live, on camera...(cf Anwar Sadat, Indira, Benazir...and etc...all assassinated by their bodyguards...

Pundita said...

Hi, Unknown:

1. To convey just how scattered Ms Bachmann is in her speaking style, even you misunderstood what she told Beck, at least with regard to the two points you mentioned in your comments!

Her style of presenting her points makes Ms Bachmann her own worst enemy, and leaves her wide open to critics and people who are deliberately trying to distort or quash her points -- particularly with regard to questions about the extent to which the U.S. government has used advisors with links to known terrorist organizations and/or anti-democractic, anti-American agendas.

2. Yes Indira was killed by bodyguards but there is video of the Anwar Sadat and Benazir Bhutto assassinations; from this, and from authoritative accounts of their deaths I've read, they were not killed by anyone among their bodyguard detail. (If you have information to the contrary from a reasonably authoritative source, I'd be interested in seeing it.)

Of course the published evidence doesn't preclude the possibility that there were moles among their bodyguard contingent for Benazir and Sadat, and who fed information to the plotters.

However, it didn't require spies to get an exact fix on the appearance schedules for both leaders on the day of their assassination. Both appearances and their location were broadcast in advance of the events.

3. All this said, I take what I think is your central point, which is that it really wouldn't matter to those trying to quash Bachmann's points even if she had presented them with great clarity.

As a matter of fact, she did present the points with clarity in her letter to Ralph Ellison, and in the letters to government officials that she co-signed.

I add that she wasn't simply misquoted in her remarks in the letter to Ellison about Abedin; a false quote was supplied -- by whom it's not clear, but the media and her Republican critics used the false quote as the basis to lambaste her remarks about Abedin.

So no matter how clearly she put things, it seems she would have been 'misunderstood.' But it is in the area of defending one's points when the disinformation specialists swing into high gear that clarity of exposition is crucial.

I think Bachmann failed to fully appreciate that there is a big difference between criticizing the politics of fellow Republicans and taking on the Muslim Brotherhood -- and the people in the USG, including some Republicans (e.g., John McCain), who want to deal with the Brothers.

She landed in the big league with her accusations, but she was not ready for that level of debate when she appeared on Beck's show.

To her credit, she's sticking to her points. It's just that she needs to make them a lot clearer.
You can see from her letter to Ralph Ellison (which was probably written by an aide) that she made the kind of rookie mistake any attorney could have warned her against. So while the letter (as distinct from her speaking style) was very clear, she threw in way too much information. This gave disinformation specialists a clear shot at her -- on the sound theory that most people in the public wouldn't take the trouble to go the source of her comments about Abedin's family, which was her letter to Ellison, and wade through all the paragraphs to learn what exactly was written.

So. For all the valid concerns she raised with Beck, Ms Bachmann, as with so many Americans, does not fully understand that war is a 24/7 enterprise which is happening even when bullets aren't flying. The day she raised questions about the Muslim Brotherhood, she landed in the middle of a key aspect of war, which is strategic communications. And there, she was cannon fodder.

Someday, my fellow Americans are going to wise up. I just wish they wouldn't keep trying to wise up in the hardest ways.