In Defense of the War on Terror
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 confronted Americans with the stark reality of a fanatical Islamist enemy obsessed with the goal of destroying their country’s institutions, its people, and its civilization. An al Qaeda manifesto titled “Why We Fight America,” which was made public in June 2002, expresses radical Islam’s agenda with abundant clarity:
“What happened to America [on 9/11] is something natural, an expected event for a country that uses terror, arrogant policy, and suppression against the nations and the peoples … America is the head of heresy in our modern world, and it leads an infidel democratic regime that is based upon separation of religion and state and on ruling the people by … laws that contradict the way of Allah…. [Therefore], we have the right to kill 4 million Americans — 2 million of them children — and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons …”
Such is the mindset underlying the terrorist war that has been declared against America.
Of course, 9/11 was by no means the first instance of actual or attempted Islamic terrorism perpetrated against U.S. interests:
- On February 26, 1993, al Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Center with a truck bomb that made a crater six stories deep, killed six people and injured more than a thousand. The planners’ intention had been to cause one tower to topple the other and kill tens of thousands of people in the process.
- After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, unsuccessful attempts were made by al Qaeda groups to blow up the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and other populated targets, including a massive terrorist incident timed to coincide with the millennium celebrations of January 2000.
- Another scheme to hijack multiple commercial airliners and use them as “bombs” (not unlike 9/11) was thwarted in the Philippines in 1995.
- In 1996 a terrorist attack on the Khobar Towers, a U.S. military barracks in Saudia Arabia, killed 19 American soldiers.
- In 1998, al Qaeda agents blew up U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania — killing 245 people and injuring 5,000.
- On October 12, 2000, the warship USS Cole was bombed while re-fueling in Yemen; 17 American sailors were killed and 39 were injured.
While these were all acts of war committed during the Clinton administration, President Clinton and his cabinet refused to recognize them as such. Instead, they treated them as law-enforcement matters to be dealt with in criminal court. President George W. Bush broke this pattern and responded to 9/11 as though it were an act of war, not a criminal infraction. Thus began America’s War on Terror.
The cornerstone of this War on Terror was the Patriot Act (enacted in October 2001), which removed several Clinton-era restrictions that had prevented intelligence officials and law-enforcement officials from sharing information and working together on investigations. The Patriot Act also gave the Treasury Department more leverage with which to disrupt terrorist financing networks and thereby stem the flow of terrorism’s lifeblood.
On September 17, 2002, President Bush spelled out the guiding principles of America’s War on Terror:
“Defending our Nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the Federal Government…. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank. Terrorists are organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us.
“To defeat this threat we must make use of every tool in our arsenal — military power, better homeland defenses, law enforcement, intelligence, and vigorous efforts to cut off terrorist financing. The war against terrorists of global reach is a global enterprise of uncertain duration. America will help nations that need our assistance in combating terror. And America will hold to account nations that are compromised by terror, including those who harbor terrorists — because the allies of terror are the enemies of civilization…. [W]e will seek to deny them sanctuary at every turn.”
A number of the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism measures were quickly undone by Barack Obama, who took over the presidency in January 2009. Obama’s first act as U.S. President was to order the suspension of all military tribunals that had been established to adjudicate the cases of terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. This move was consistent with Obama’s view that terrorism is not a matter of war, but rather criminal-justice issue to be resolved in civilian courts.
In March 2009 the Obama administration ordered an end to the use of the phrase “War on Terror,” a label that had been adopted by the Bush administration shortly after the 9/11 attacks. In a memo sent from the Defense Department’s office of security to Pentagon staffers, members were told: “This administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror.’ Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’”
In a similar spirit, Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, broke with the tradition of warning the American public about potential terrorist threats. Instead, Napolitano began referring to acts of terrorism as “man-caused disasters.”
Also in 2009, Obama’s “Terrorism Czar” John Brennan openly rejected the use of the term “War on Terrorism.” Elaborating, Brennan said the U.S. would not seek merely to defeat al Qaeda and its allies, but also to address ignorance, poverty, and repression, since terrorist attacks are often “the final murderous manifestation of a long process rooted in hopelessness, humiliation, and hatred.” Moreover, Brennan maintained that it was wrong to say the U.S. was fighting “jihadists,” because “jihad” was “a legitimate term … meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal.”
The Media vs the War on Terror
According to post-9/11 studies by the Media Research Center (MRC), news reporters at the three major television networks have tended to cast the U.S. government’s anti-terrorism efforts in a decidedly negative light. In one particular study of ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 11, 2001 through August 31, 2006, MRC researchers analyzed 496 stories dealing with three major topics: the PATRIOT Act, the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and the National Security Agency’s terrorist-surveillance program. Their findings were as follows.
(A) PATRIOT Act: During the weeks immediately following the 9/11 attacks, comprehensive legislation to close the loopholes in America’s existing national-security laws was drafted in the form of the PATRIOT Act, which passed with just one dissenting vote in the Senate and a mere 66 dissenting votes in the House of Representatives. Signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001, this bill did not represent a dramatic departure from existing law. Indeed, many of its key provisions were incorporated from an anti-terrorism measure that had been passed by Congress and signed into law by former President Bill Clinton five years earlier. Most significantly, the PATRIOT Act removed several Clinton-era restrictions that had erected “walls of separation” preventing intelligence agents and law-enforcement officials from sharing information with one another and collaborating on terrorism-related investigations.
Even before it was signed into law, the TV broadcast networks depicted the PATRIOT Act as a wide-ranging threat to the civil liberties of ordinary Americans. This trend continued long after the bill had been passed. Fully 62% of PATRIOT Act-related stories which the networks aired after 9/11 presented fears about America becoming a police state as valid and reasonable. By contrast, only 5% of the stories noted that the PATRIOT Act had not resulted in even a single substantiated civil-liberties violation since the law was enacted. And only NBC’s Pete Williams (on September 10, 2003) told viewers that some of the supposedly controversial elements of the law — including the provision for “delayed notification,” where a warrant could be executed to search a home or business and the subject only told about it after the fact — were already legally-approved techniques for anti-drug and organized-crime cases.
In their coverage of the PATRIOT Act, all of the evening newscasts tended to feature sound bites from experts — mostly attorneys or law professors — who disapproved of the law. Some 61 percent of these network sound bites asserted that the law represented a threat to people’s privacy rights. Moreover, the networks also aired 19 sound bites from ordinary citizens — every one of them critical of the PATRIOT Act. This reportage was entirely inconsistent with the fact that according to a January 2006 poll, 53 percent of Americans saw the PATRIOT Act as a positive measure, whereas only 30 percent opposed it. In addition, 59 percent of the public believed that the law had helped to prevent terrorist attacks, while just 29 percent thought it had not.
(B) Guantanamo Bay: Military police began transferring captured enemy combatants (mostly al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists) to a newly established prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on January 10, 2002. From January 2002 through August 2006, just 14% of Guantanamo-related network-news stories mentioned the dangers posed by the very violent men who were being detained there. By contrast, 36% of the stories focused on charges that the detainees were being denied their rights or privileges, and 38% dealt with allegations that the detainees were being mistreated or abused. Scarcely 2% of the news stories noted that some Guantanamo inmates had been released, only to rejoin al Qaeda’s jihad against America.
During this same period, the network evening newscasts aired 79 Guantanamo-related sound bites from independent experts, mostly law professors or other legal experts. Only 19 percent of these supported the manner in which the U.S. was managing Guantanamo, while 58 percent were critical and 23 percent offered neutral information.
The newscasts also featured 46 sound bites from Guantanamo detainees, their families, and their attorneys — unanimously depicting the prisoners as innocent victims of circumstance, unlucky people who had been taken into custody without just cause.
© NSA Surveillance Program: On December 16, 2005, The New York Times ran a front-page story revealing that the Bush administration, since shortly after 9/11, had been allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to wiretap — without court warrants — phone calls involving U.S. residents, provided that in each case: (a) at least one party to the call was situated overseas, and (b) the American was a known contact of a terrorist organization. The political Left immediately condemned the program, and all three television news networks likewise presented it mostly as a Bush administration scandal. During the first seven days after the Times revealed the NSA program’s existence, the three networks ran a combined 23 stories about it; 59% of these cast the program as either legally dubious or outright unlawful. Fifty-five percent of the purportedly independent experts cited in these stories argued against either the ethics or the legality of the program, compared with just 11 percent who defended it; the remaining 34% conveyed neutral information.
Between December 15, 2005 and August 31, 2006, half of all network news stories about the NSA program stressed its potential for violating Americans’ civil liberties, and 30% focused on questions of whether the President had exceeded his constitutional powers in implementing the measure. Only 16% of the stories discussed the surveillance program’s potential value in combating terrorism.
Also during this period, news reporters often portrayed the NSA program as one that could potentially intrude on the privacy of virtually every American. For example, 37 percent of the news stories said that the program targeted “Americans” or “U.S. citizens” generally. Just a handful of the reports explained that the NSA’s goal was specifically to monitor terrorists (5%) or individuals already suspected of collaborating with terrorists (8%).
Politically Correct Rules of Engagement
When the U.S. military was bogged down in Iraq prior to the “troop surge” of 2007, its efforts were hampered not only by insufficient manpower but also by the restrictive rules of engagement it was required to observe. As Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia recalls, throughout his deployment in Iraq in 2004 the military made innumerable concessions to local and cultural sensitivities that not only inhibited its ability to fight, but also endangered the lives of American troops. For instance, in a village in Diyala province — then a prime refuge for al-Qaeda in Iraq — the resident sheiks protested that Americans would not be welcome unless they abandoned their tanks and fighting vehicles and entered the area on foot. “Our platoons basically said, ‘Yes,’” Bellavia recalls with dismay. “We were sent to fight al-Qaeda and in that situation we were forced to fight on al-Qaeda’s terms.”
That scenario was not atypical. The rules of engagement in Iraq prohibited the military from entering mosques, treating them always as sacred sites instead of what they often were, namely, weapons storehouses and bases of operations for Iraqi insurgents and their allies in foreign terrorist organizations.
In Fallujah in November of 2004, Bellavia’s unit learned firsthand the perils of that policy. After taking intense fire from a mosque, the GIs moved in to surround it. Restricted from entering the mosque themselves, the troops were forced to wait until an Iraqi unit could be found to enter the mosque and root out the attackers. “Meanwhile, we’re exposing ourselves to hellfire,” Bellavia recalls. “Even when the Iraqis arrived, we had to ask for permission to enter the firefight…. [We were] being asked to respect landmarks that we [knew] for a fact [were] being used as stockpiles for weapons. On the level, the whole thing is ridiculous.”
The situation became even worse for U.S. troops over the ensuing two years. “When I went to Iraq in 2004,” says Bellavia, “before entering Fallujah we were given a pep talk. We were told, ‘Kill the rattlesnake before it strikes.’ But when I went back in 2006 as a reporter, I heard [officers] telling those kids things like, ‘If you make a mistake, we’ll come after you.’ I thought to myself, ‘That’s the pep talk you’re giving them?’”
Paradoxically, the military’s well-intentioned efforts to tread carefully around Iraqi culture and to minimize civilian casualties sometimes led to more civilian deaths. The folly of this policy was illustrated in one instructive incident involving a mosque. On February 22, 2006, the political climate in Iraq, which was already fragile, took a sharp turn for the worse when Iraqi militants disguised as police officers forced their way into the Golden Mosque of Samara and triggered twin bomb blasts that decimated the revered Shiite structure. In the aftermath, 20 Sunni mosques across Iraq were targeted by retaliatory attacks, including bombs; at least 18 people, among them two Sunni clerics, were killed. Then-Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari, recognizing the scope of the violence, declared a day of national mourning.
But the Golden Mosque might have been saved and the subsequent spree of violence averted if an American Special Police Transition Team, positioned just feet from the mosque, had been allowed to intervene to root out the insurgents. “The whole time we knew explosives and weapons were in the mosque,” Major Darrell Green, the team’s commander, would later recall. But because rules of engagement prevented the team from entering the mosque, Green and his men were forced to look impotently on as the military’s grand plans to accommodate Iraqi culture went up in smoke.
Among the more notable individuals to capitalize on America’s restrictive rules of engagement was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late head of al-Qaeda’s operations in Iraq. In 2005, Zarqawi was spotted by an Army Ranger unit speeding through a roadblock. With Zarqawi’s vehicle in his site, a machine gunner asked for permission to take out the target. But since the rules of engagement prevented the Rangers from firing unless they had 100 percent “positive identification” — a difficult proposition in a speeding vehicle — the permission was denied. Zarqawi lived to fight for another year, directly ordering hundreds of suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings while bolstering his reputation with stories of an unlikely escape from the U.S. military, before finally being killed in a June 2006 air strike.
By no means was Iraq the only theater of the War on Terror where restrictive rules of engagement undermined U.S. military objectives. For example, in September 2006 American forces had the opportunity to kill nearly 200 known Taliban who were gathered at a gravesite during a burial in Afghanistan. But the troops could not get permission from their superiors to take action — because it would have been considered disrespectful to fire upon mourners at a cemetery.
The battlefield rules of engagement were tightened even further by Gen. Stanley McChrystal under President Barack Obama in 2010, on the theory that this would reduce civilian casualties and win the cooperation of local populations. These new restrictions placed American soldiers in much greater danger, as exemplified by this Omaha World-Herald account of an April 2011 incident in Afghanistan:
In April 2011, a roadside bomb exploded under an armored vehicle carrying Iowa National Guard troops as they patrolled north of Kabul. Almost immediately after the explosion — which destroyed the vehicle’s front half but resulted in no injuries — the Iowa soldiers spotted a man sprinting away from where they believed the blast had been triggered. “We’ve got a triggerman running towards the valley,” reported an Iowa voice over the radio.
The gunner frantically and forcefully asked for permission to shoot — he had the runner in his sights — but that permission was denied after a quick and heated back-and-forth with the truck commander. The incident left the gunner and others in the convoy suspecting that they had just let an insurgent scamper away after trying to kill them.
The Omaha World-Herald also reported on the experiences of Ross Wimer, a Marine who was deployed in October 2010 toa southern Afghan district known as one of the most dangerous spots in the country:
Nearly every day, Wimer and his Marine unit would leave their tiny and primitive combat outpost and wade into serious danger. At least 25 of the battalion’s approximately 900 Marines died during the deployment. Nearly 200 were wounded, many of them losing limbs to improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
During day patrols, Wimer and the other Marines found nearly 1,000 IEDs, he said. On many nights, the Marines watched through their night-vision goggles as shadowy figures dug holes in the ground, and on several occasions they opened fire. At some point, the order came down: Stop shooting at night unless you can positively identify an insurgent. “We knew what that person was doing … burying an IED for sure,” said Wimer…. “But the command would say, ‘You can’t be positive. They might be a farmer.’ Ridiculous.”
In early 2012, the Obama Administration changed the way federal agents were trained to combat Islamic terrorism by eliminating all instructional materials that depicted Muslims or Islam as being prone to violence or terrorism. As part of what the Wall Street Journal characterized as a “government-wide call to end Islamophobia,” the White House ordered the FBI to destroy such materials.
Also under orders from the Obama Administration, a new military handbook for U.S. troops deployed to the Middle East contained a list of “taboo conversation topics” that soldiers should avoid, including “making derogatory comments about the Taliban,” “advocating women’s rights,” “any criticism of pedophilia” (because older Muslim men often take child brides), “directing any criticism towards Afghans,” “mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct,” or “anything related to Islam.” Further, the manual suggests that the increase in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against coalition forces (resulting in more than 60 coalition deaths during 2012) was due to Western ignorance of Afghan culture, rather than to Taliban infiltration of those forces: “Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [troops] to more effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead toward green-on-blue violence.”
In 2012, Breitbart.com reported that: “The rules of engagement (ROEs) governing a U.S. soldier’s response to enemy fighters in Afghanistan has made that country more dangerous for U.S. soldiers under the Obama administration.” The report quoted some members of a Cavalry Scout Platoon that was on the ground near Camp Wright in Kunar Province, Afghanistan:
- “During the Bush administration, we were able to engage terrorists planting IEDs with greater ease. Now, if we see two guys on the side of the road and it looks like they’re planting an IED, we are told to wait — because they might be farmers. It’s like our goal is to kill them with kindness. We’re going to win Afghans over with money, clinics, roads, etc., instead of winning their confidence by killing the Taliban or the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG).”
- “We have certain counter-insurgency (COIN) techniques that support the Afghan population by removing the terrorists from their midst. COIN involves clearing the enemy out, keeping the enemy out, and helping the people get on their feet once the threat is removed (clear, hold, develop). However, under the current ROEs, while we hold the area we’ve cleared, redlines are set beyond which we can’t venture. This creates a perimeter beyond which the enemy remains untouchable. The enemy literally sits outside those lines and waits for us leave so they can move back in. Another problem is that once we’ve cleared a place, we only hold it for a short time before we move on to the next place in order to show ‘progress.’ The bad news is that this ‘progress’ might look good on paper, but it doesn’t involve the aggressive killing of the enemy which is necessary if COIN is to be carried out the way it was designed.”
- “[W]e have Escalation of Force Kits. These keep people away in a non-lethal manner. To do that, they used to contain ‘KEEP BACK’ signs we’d put on our trucks during a convoy and the kits also had small flares we could fire. These things were taken away and instead we were told to drive with the same courtesy we would use if driving in the U.S. That means if cars get backed up behind us, we are to pull over and let them pass. This takes our buffer — our zone of safety — completely away. Because once we pull over, the cars get to pass right up against us and that opens the door for suicide bombers, suicide bombs, and gun fire. We allow people to get so close to our vehicles that we have no time to react should they try to do something.”
NSA Terrorist Surveillance Programs and FISA
On December 16, 2005, The New York Times ran a front-page story revealing that the Bush administration, since shortly after 9/11, had been allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to wiretap — without seeking a court warrant — phone calls involving U.S. residents, provided that in each case: (a) at least one party to the call was situated overseas, and (b) the American was a known contact of a terrorist organization.
The left immediately condemned the program. Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer (of California) asked four presidential scholars to send her, “as soon as possible,” their opinions about whether President Bush’s actions justified an impeachment. Boxer’s California colleague, Dianne Feinstein, called for the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees to investigate the wiretaps. Senator Harry Reid, too, wanted to schedule hearings. Federal judge James Robertson (a Bill Clinton appointee) resigned his judgeship in protest over Bush’s policy. Robertson previously had ruled, in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case, that al-Qaeda operatives may have the right to be tried in a civilian court of law rather than in a military tribunal — thereby granting foreign jihadists the same constitutional rights that are given to all manner of common domestic lawbreakers. (Robertson was subsequently overturned on appeal.)
Leftist attacks on the NSA wiretapping program led to the widespread misconception that it somehow randomly targeted Americans regardless of their backgrounds. But in reality, President Bush had narrowly tailored his authorization to permit only the wiretapping of conversations that met the criteria listed in the first paragraph, above.
Another widely circulated falsehood was that the NSA wiretapping measure was somehow in violation of established U.S. law. In reality, surveillance without a warrant had already been the law of the land for a quarter-century, and had been upheld in court at least once during President Bush’s first term: In 2002, citing an already 22-year-old precedent, the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review — the court that oversees the process whereby the President authorizes the wiretapping of foreigners — ruled that:
“[T]he president did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information … We take for granted that the president does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA [the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act] could not encroach on the president’s constitutional power.”
Nor was Bush the first president to take this step, which many of his critics portrayed as “unprecedented.” For instance, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr told 60 Minutes that President Bill Clinton’s “Echelon” program had intercepted “literally millions of communications involving United States citizens.” Clinton also had authorized the NSA to wiretap and search the home of CIA spy Aldrich Ames. Soon thereafter, Clinton broadened the NSA’s authority to include “classified electronic surveillance techniques, such as infrared sensors to observe people inside their homes.”
Jamie Gorelick, a 9/11 Commission member and former high-ranking Clinton Justice Department official, had told the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1994: “The Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes.”
A few months later (on February 9, 1995), President Clinton signed Executive Order 12949, stating that “the Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year.”
Precedence for warrantless wiretaps and searches antedated the Clinton administration as well. For example, Ronald Reagan had clearly recognized the government’s right to spy on foreign intelligence agents without a warrant. And Jimmy Carter had signed Executive Order 12139 on May 23, 1979, declaring that “the Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order.”
It is notable that prior to the publication of the New York Times story about the NSA wiretapping program, the Bush White House had briefed a host of key Democrats about it — including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Sen. Bob Graham, and Rep. Jane Harman. Yet none of them took to the Senate or House floor to denounce the measure — until after the Times story broke.
Military Tribunals for Unlawful Combatants
On November 13, 2001 — two months after 9/11 — George W. Bush signed an executive order authorizing the U.S. government to try terror suspects in military tribunals, where military officers serve as the judges and jurors, rather than in civilian courts. The President’s decision was swiftly and widely condemned by the political left, which accused him of trampling on the civil rights and liberties of defendants who, the critics said, should be entitled to all the rights and protections afforded by the American criminal-court system — where the standards that govern the admissibility of evidence are considerably stricter than the counterpart standards in military tribunals.
The Defense Department explained that military tribunals were designed to deal with offenses committed in the context of warfare — transgressions such as pillaging; terrorism; killing or attacking civilians; taking hostages; employing poison or analogous weapons; using civilians as human shields; torture; mutilation or maiming; improperly using a flag of surrender; desecrating or abusing a dead body; rape; hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft; aiding the enemy; spying; providing false testimony or perjury; soliciting others to commit offenses that are triable by military jurisprudence; and intending or conspiring to commit, or to aid in the commission of, such crimes.
In June 2006, the Supreme Court determined that military tribunals were not authorized by federal law. This did not mean that the rules governing such tribunals were necessarily flawed or unconstitutional, but only that those rules needed to be formally voted into law — or formally rejected — by Congress. In response to this decision, five months later Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, formally authorizing the adjudication of war crimes and terrorism cases in military courts.
But the left argued that military tribunals were inappropriate venues in which to try defendants captured during the Iraq War because Congress, which has the sole authority to make formal declarations of war, had not done so in the case of Iraq. There was considerable precedent, however, for trying accused war criminals in military courts even in the absence of a Congressional declaration of war. President Abraham Lincoln, for example, used military commissions extensively to sentence Confederate terrorists for such crimes as seizure, arson, and the destruction of transportation, communication or other systems of infrastructure during the American Civil War.
In all of U.S. history, Congress has made formal declarations of war only five times: the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. But as law professor Henry Mark Holzer points out, presidents acting in their capacity as commanders-in-chief have sent troops into battle at least 130 times in the absence of such declarations. Sometimes those military conflicts, while not formally declared wars, were explicitly authorized by Congress. Among these were the Vietnam War, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In some other cases, the U.S. has engaged in combat against a particular form of enemy aggression, even though America was not officially at war with the nation from which the aggressors hailed. For example, the 1801 Talbot v. Seeman Supreme Court case involved French privateers who were preying on American commercial ships. In its decision, the Court affirmed Congress’s right to declare a “partial war” against the transgressors. The parallel with the current war on terror, where intelligence and military forces seek to combat saboteurs and killers from a number of nations that are not formally at war with America, is clear.
A secondary consideration in determining if military tribunals are the proper venue for the adjudication of a given case involves the question of whether the defendant is a “lawful combatant” or an “unlawful combatant.” The former is entitled to prisoner-of-war status and its accompanying Geneva Convention protections; the latter is entitled to none of that. Article IV of the Geneva Convention defines lawful combatants as those whose military organization meets four very specific criteria: “(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign [a uniform or emblem] recognizable at a distance; © that of carrying arms openly; [and] (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.” Al Qaeda fails even to come close to satisfying these conditions.
Apart from the question of whether military tribunals are a good idea philosophically, trying terrorists and war criminals in civilian rather than military courts poses a number of serious problems from a practical standpoint. For one thing, the rules defining admissible and inadmissible evidence in each venue differ dramatically. In civilian trials, neither coerced testimony, nor confessions made in the absence of a Miranda warning, nor hearsay evidence can presented to the court; in military tribunals the opposite is true, provided that the court determines such evidence to have “probative value to a reasonable person.” Attorneys Spencer J. Crona and Neal A. Richardson explain the profound significance of this:
“A relaxation of the hearsay rule might become critical in a prosecution for terrorism where it may be impossible to produce live witnesses to an event which occurred years earlier in a foreign country.”
Trials of terrorists in civilian courts are beset by further practical limitations as well. Consider, for example, a hypothetical instance where U.S. military personnel capture a foreign terrorist overseas and transport him to the United States, against his will, for trial. Explains attorney Mitchell Lathrop:
“Immediately apparent are the issues of the legitimacy of the exercise of criminal jurisdiction over him by the United States, i.e., his arrest in the first instance, and his involuntary transportation to the United States. Then come the issues of the selection of the proper jurisdiction for the trial, the application of the laws of his own country, the selection of a jury, and even personal and subject-matter jurisdiction of U.S. courts. Any qualified defense lawyer would certainly challenge jurisdiction and a series of complicated appeals would inevitably result. In the final analysis, a plea bargain could well result just to avoid the interminable delays.”
Another exceedingly significant weakness inherent in civilian trials for terrorists is the fact that in such proceedings, there exists a high likelihood that classified intelligence sources will be compromised. If the government wishes to present certain incriminating evidence in a civilian trial, which is open to the public, it must disclose its sources as well as the techniques it used for obtaining the information from them. This requirement (which does not exist in military tribunals) obviously would place those sources in grave danger and would quickly lead to the non-cooperation or disappearance of many of them — to say nothing of the future potential informants who would undoubtedly choose to avoid placing themselves in similar peril. Moreover, the effectiveness of any publicly disclosed information-gathering techniques would thereafter be permanently compromised.
Finally, those who serve as jurors in the civilian trials of accused terrorists may, if they render “guilty” verdicts, be extremely vulnerable to violent retribution from affiliated terrorist and militia groups — another argument against civilian trials for terrorists.
With regard to legal precedent, the use of military tribunals for the adjudication of war crimes is in no way a departure from past practices. Military commissions were used during the American Revolution, the Mexican-American War of 1846–48, the Civil War, and World War II. The most famous WWII-era case involved eight marines of the Third Reich (one of whom was an American citizen named Herbert Haupt) who rode a Nazi U-boat to the east coast of the United States, where, laden with explosives, they disembarked and set off toward various locations with the intent of bombing railroads, hydroelectric plants, factories, department stores, and defense facilities across the country. The saboteurs were wearing no military uniforms or identifying emblems when they were captured, meaning that technically they were “unlawful combatants.” Refusing to grant the perpetrators civilian jury trials, President Franklin D. Roosevelt quickly created a secret military commission to hear their cases. All eight were convicted and sentenced to death, though two later had their sentences commuted to life in prison.
- Spencer J. Crona and Neal A. Richardson, “Justice For War Criminals of Invisible Armies: A New Legal and Military Approach to Terrorism” (Summer/Fall 1996)
- John Dean, “The Critics Are Wrong” (November 23, 2001)
- John Dean, “Appropriate Justice for Terrorists” (September 28, 2001)
- John Dean, “Military Tribunals: A Long And Mostly Honorable History” (December 7, 2001)
- Michael C. Dorf, “What Is an ‘Unlawful Combatant,’ and Why it Matters” (January 23, 2002)
- Henry Mark Holzer, “Who’s Who Among American Terrorists” (October 17, 2002)
- Henry Mark Holzer, “The Fifth Column’s Legal Team” (June 18, 2002)
- Mitchell L. Lathrop, “A Realistic Look at Terrorism Trials” (November 2001)
- Michelle Malkin, “No More Jury Trials for Terrorists” (October 24, 2001)
- Deborah Sontag, “In Padilla Wiretaps, Murky View of ‘Jihad’ Case” (January 4, 2007)
* Jonathan Weisman, “Battle Looms in Congress over Military Tribunals” (July 13, 2006)
- “U.S. Supreme Court: Holtzman v. Schlesinger, 414 U.S. 1304” (1973)
- “Why Civilian Trials for Terrorists are a Bad Idea,” by John Perazzo (February 6, 2007)
Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
The post-9/11 era has featured a continuing, heated debate over the question of whether there can ever be justification for using “enhanced interrogation” measures to obtain strategic intelligence from captured terrorists or enemy combatants. The measures in question include, among others: depriving a suspect of sleep; forcing a suspect to stand in uncomfortable positions for many hours at a time; forcing an incarcerated suspect to stand naked for extended periods in 50-degree temperatures; forcefully grabbing the shirt of a suspect and shaking him; issuing an open-handed slap designed to cause pain (though not injury) and fear in a suspect; and, most famously, subjecting a suspect to the technique known as waterboarding, which has been used by CIA agents on a small number of high-level al Qaeda operatives. (Click here and here for a detailed description of waterboarding and its effects.)
The George W. Bush administration assigned numerous lawyers to examine each of these enhanced interrogation procedures and determine whether any of them were so extreme or dangerous as to constitute torture. The attorneys concluded that none of the methods in question could be classified as torture. But critics of enhanced interrogation continue to contend that not only are such methods unacceptably cruel and inhumane, but that they are also unlikely to yield any information that can be considered reliable. After banning the practice of waterboarding in the first days of his presidency, for example, Barack Obama said:
“I am absolutely convinced [that this] was the right thing to do, not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.”
The President’s perspective was echoed by members of his administration at every level. Attorney General Eric Holder, for instance, condemned the Bush administration for having “authorized torture” and “needlessly abusive and unlawful practices” that “have diminished our standing in the world community and made us less, rather than more, safe.” On another occasion, Holder characterized enhanced interrogation as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”
In April 2009, against the protests of former CIA director Michael Hayden, President Obama, reiterating his contention that enhanced interrogation techniques “did not make us safer,” publicly released a number of the legal memos in which Bush administration attorneys had explained why such methods should be deemed lawful. According to Hayden, Obama’s action was a potentially disastrous move because it provided “our enemies in the midst of a war” with “very valuable information” about exactly what “are the outer limits that any American would ever go to in terms of interrogating an al Qaeda terrorist.”
Also in the early months of his presidency, Obama indicated that his Justice Department might in fact seek to prosecute the Bush attorneys who had written the aforementioned memos. “I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws,” said the President. Eventually the Obama administration announced that it would not pursue the Bush lawyers in court.
The CIA agents who had implemented the policies authorized in the legal memos, however, were not offered any such assurance. In August 2009, Attorney General Holder announced that “the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations.” As of May 2011, the possibility of legal action against the agents still existed.
The question of the efficacy of enhanced interrogation techniques, however, has continued to be debated. There is strong evidence that such interrogations have been effective in eliciting valuable intelligence. For example, a May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo noted the following:
“[T]he CIA believes the intelligence acquired from these [enhanced] interrogations has been a key reason why al Qaeda has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001…. In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including [Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a.k.a. ‘KSM’] and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques…. Before the CIA used enhanced techniques … KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, ‘Soon you will find out.’ [Once the techniques were applied], interrogations have led to specific, actionable intelligence, as well as a general increase in the amount of intelligence regarding al Qaeda and its affiliates.”
“[…] Interrogations of [Abu] Zubaydah — again, once enhanced techniques were employed — furnished detailed information regarding al Qaeda’s organizational structure, key operatives, and modus operandi and identified KSM as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks…. Zubaydah and KSM also supplied important information about al-Zarqawi and his network [in Iraq].”
When Abu Zubaydeh began to reveal information as a result of the waterboarding, he explained that he and his fellow al Qaeda operatives were obligated to resist only until they could no longer do so, at which point it became permissible for them to cooperate with interrogators. Indeed he advised his interrogators: “Do this for all the brothers.”
Of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 35 were subjected to any enhanced techniques. Waterboarding in particular was used against an even smaller number of suspects. The amount of information yielded by such efforts, however, was immense. According to former CIA Director Michael Hayden, as of 2006, fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda had been learned via enhanced interrogation.
The value of enhanced interrogation was demonstrated yet again in the sequence of events that ultimately enabled the U.S. to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden. A key development in the search for the elusive terror leader occurred in 2007, when two Guantanamo Bay detainees — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi — were shipped to an “extraordinary rendition” site in Eastern Europe where they were waterboarded. As a direct result of that waterboarding, these men provided U.S. officials with the nom de guerre of one of bin Laden’s most trusted personal couriers. The informants indicated that the courier in question might be living with, and protecting, bin Laden. Proceeding from that tip, U.S. intelligence officials painstakingly set out to locate the courier. In August 2010 they finally succeeded in tracing him to a three-story residence in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Further surveillance suggested that bin Laden himself was also likely to be living there. Late on the night of May 1, 2011, forty U.S. Navy SEALS raided the house and indeed found bin Laden therein and killed him.
While taking credit for the terror leader’s death, President Obama remained steadfast in his opposition to waterboarding and other forms of enhanced interrogation. When CBS News reporter Mark Knoller asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney whether, in the wake of bin Laden’s killing, “there has been any change in President Obama’s opposition to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques,” Carney replied: “No change whatsoever.”
A constant of Islamic history, jihad is mandated by the Prophet Muhammad and by the Koran’s repeated exhortations for the faithful to do battle with the infidels. This fact renders negotiations with Islamic terrorists useless, because the latter consider their actions to be unequivocally consistent with the divine will of God. As Osama bin Laden’s lieutenant, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, stated in the summer of 2006: “War with Israel is not subject to a treaty, cease-fire, … or disputed borders, but it is jihad for the cause of God until the entire region is for him only … from Spain to Iraq.”
Indeed, the terrorists are very clear about their intentions. “America,” declared Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith, “is the head of heresy in our modern world, and [as a result] … we have the right to kill 4 million Americans — 2 million of them children — and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons.” In a similar spirit, the Saudi Sheikh Nasser ibn Hamed said it would be “permissible” to “annihilate 10 million” Americans “and burn their lands to the same extent that they burned the Muslim lands.” Osama bin Laden wrote in his 1998 “Declaration of Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders” that “killing the Americans and their allies — both civilians and military personnel — is a commandment for every individual Muslim who can do this, in any country in which he can do this…”
Such words do not represent a deviation from Islamic tradition; they are merely a new manifestation of an ancient impulse.
Many, particularly on the American Left, believe that if the U.S. would only pursue certain courses of action that were pleasing to Muslims — such as decreasing its support for Israel — terrorist violence would cease. But this view is ahistorical. The Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, the first modern Islamic terrorist organization and the direct ancestor of Hamas and Al-Qaeda, was founded in 1928 — twenty years before the founding of the State of Israel. Its objectives have not changed markedly since then. The founding of the Muslim Brotherhood was not a response to Zionism, but to the abolition of the Islamic caliphate by the secular Turkish government in 1924.
And though American and European officials continue to press forward with initiatives to grant the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank various land concessions in exchange for peace, there has never been any indication from the other side that such concessions will bring about the coveted cessation of hostilities. In fact, Palestinian terrorists have frequently rejected the path of negotiation and compromise, in no uncertain terms.
Underscoring the fact that the terror jihad proceeds from theological imperatives within Islam, and not from political grievances, is the fact that its foot soldiers are active today in virtually every corner of the globe. The international media focus on conflict in Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan, but terrorism continues on a regular basis in such far-flung places as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Chechnya, the Balkans, and Nigeria — to say nothing of the terror attacks that have struck Europe and the United States.
It should be noted that while non-Muslim Westerners view Islamic jihadists who seek to harm or kill non-believers for religious reasons as terrorists, those same jihadists consider themselves soldiers of Allah engaged in a sacred mission. They view humanity not as a unified whole, but instead as a duality of believers vs. non-believers (kafirs). Because Allah allegedly despises kafirs, Islamic tradition permits Muslims to inflict on them all manner of pain and indignity: deceit, mockery, theft, slavery, rape, beheading, crucifixion, and much more. Therein lies Islam’s moral justification for terrorism.
Islamic jihad is not, as some Western apologists claim, simply a striving for individual moral perfection. Nor is it merely a series of unrelated clashes involving groups of Islamists, each with their own limited objectives. Rather, jihad is a radical, expansionist, totalitarian ideology that seeks to establish a global Islamic state ruled by Sharia law. The adherents of this ideology are willing and able to commit acts of violence to bring about their objectives.
The goals and motives of jihad are detailed in Islamic texts and by Islamic teachers. Osama bin Laden and other jihad leaders have repeatedly declared their intention to establish an Islamic social order globally. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predicted: “The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world.”
The fact that this jihad is justified by the Koran’s repeated exhortations for the faithful to do battle with the infidels renders negotiations with jihadis utterly useless. As Osama bin Laden’s lieutenant, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, stated in the summer of 2006: “War with Israel is not subject to a treaty, cease-fire, … or disputed borders, but it is jihad for the cause of God until the entire region is for him only … from Spain to Iraq.”
The restoration of a unified Islamic state — a caliphate — governed by a ruler (caliph) who leads the Muslim community as a successor of Muhammad, is a key imperative for jihadists today because only the caliph is authorized to wage war against non-Muslim states to bring them under the rule of Islamic law. This idea is not an invention of marginalized jihadists, but is part of traditional, mainstream Islamic law. For example, a manual of Islamic law that in 1991 was certified by the most influential institution in Sunni Islam, Cairo’s Al- Azhar University, defines jihad as “war against non-Muslims.” And it spells out the nature of this warfare in quite specific terms: “The caliph makes war upon Jews [and] Christians … until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya).”
Mandated by the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad, jihad is a constant of Islamic history. From the earliest days of the faith, Muslims acted on these commands. First Muhammad unified the Arabian peninsula under his rule and directed that all religions be forbidden there except Islam. Then the Muslims turned to the larger non-Muslim world. Predominantly Christian lands — particularly the Byzantine imperial holdings of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt — surrounded Muslim Arabia. Four of Christendom’s five principal cities — Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem — lay within striking distance of Arabia. The Byzantine Empire’s great rival, Persia, also lay in the path of the holy warriors.
Muhammad himself made the first Islamic overtures to these neighbors. He sent letters to the leaders of Persia, Byzantium, and Abyssinia, exhorting them to “embrace Islam and you will be safe.” None did. Thus, in 635 (just three years after Muhammad’s death), Damascus fell to the invading Muslims. The next year, Antioch also fell. It was Jerusalem’s turn two years later, in 638. Many native Christians were killed; others were enslaved. The same pattern prevailed when the Muslims reached Cilicia and Caesarea of Cappadocia in 650.
The jihadists rapidly swept through North Africa and by 711 were in a position to invade Spain, so that Europe was beset from both the East and the West. By 715 the Muslims were well on their way to conquering all of Spain (which they would control for over 700 years), and were pressing into France. Charles Martel stopped them in 732 at the city of Tours.
The Jihad’s Objective Today Is “Death to America”:
The chant of “Death to America!” has resounded in the Islamic world since the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iranian revolution of 1979. Because of its efforts to establish viable democracies in the Islamic world, and because it represents the most formidable global alternative to the jihadists’ vision of a world ruled by Sharia, the United States is regarded by those jihadists as the most formidable obstacle in their path.
The jihadists are very clear about their intentions. “America,” declared Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith, “is the head of heresy in our modern world, and [as a result] … we have the right to kill 4 million Americans — 2 million of them children — and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons.” The Saudi Sheikh Nasser ibn Hamed says it would be “permissible” to “annihilate 10 million” Americans “and burn their lands to the same extent that they burned the Muslim lands.” Osama bin Laden wrote in his “Declaration of Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders” in 1998 that “killing the Americans and their allies — both civilians and military personnel — is a commandment for every individual Muslim who can do this, in any country in which he can do this…”
Such words do not represent a deviation from Islamic tradition; they are a new manifestation of an ancient impulse.
Jihad Demands the Killing of Infidels, or Their Conversion or Subjugation under Islamic Law:
The goal of jihad warfare is not so much to force the unbelievers to convert to Islam, as to extend the hegemony of Islamic law and to make unbelievers submit as inferiors. Islamic history and jurisprudence — since the time of the Prophet Muhammad himself — have established three choices for non-Muslims facing jihad: conversion to Islam, submission under Islamic rule, or death. Muslim jurists have constructed an elaborate legal edifice that is without parallel in any other major religion: a codified, detailed mass of laws for the subjugation of non-Muslims in the name of Allah.
One manual of Islamic law insists that people must be called to embrace Islam before being fought. But “if the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax [jizya], it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them.”
The Jihad Is Not about American Policy Towards Israel or about Israel’s Policy Towards the Palestinians:
Many, particularly on the American Left, believe that if the U.S. were to decrease its support for Israel, and if Israel were to surrender additional territory, jihad violence would cease. But this view is ahistorical; the Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, the first modern Islamic terrorist organization and the direct ancestor of Hamas and Al-Qaeda, was founded in 1928 — twenty years before the founding of the State of Israel. Its objectives have not changed markedly since then.
The founding of the Muslim Brotherhood was not a response to Zionism, but to the abolition of the caliphate by the secular Turkish government in 1924. Indeed, the jihad group Hizb-ut-Tahrir ascribes all the ills of the Islamic world today not to Israel or to American depredations in Iraq or elsewhere, but to the abolition of the caliphate: “Since that day the Islamic ummah [nation, community] has lived a life full of calamities; she was broken up into small mini states controlled by the enemies of Islam in every aspect.”
Although American and European officials continue to press forward with initiatives to grant the Palestinians various land concessions in exchange for peace, there has never been any indication from the other side that such concessions will bring out the coveted cessation of hostilities. In fact, jihadists have frequently rejected the path of negotiation and compromise in no uncertain terms.
Underscoring the fact that the jihad proceeds from theological imperatives within Islam, not from political grievances, is the fact that jihadists are active today in virtually every corner of the globe. The international media focus on conflict in Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan, but the jihad continues on a daily basis in places such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Chechnya, the Balkans, and Nigeria, to say nothing of the “soft jihad ” being waged in Europe and America.
The jihad likewise targets all religious groups. Historically it has been even more virulent against Hindu India than against Christian Europe; Hindus, since they were not “People of the Book” as the Qur’an calls Christians and Jews, were treated even worse by their Islamic conquerors.
Wherever Muslims are found, which is in almost every country on the planet, there are adherents of the ideology of jihad and Sharia supremacism. Peaceful Muslims have made no large-scale, organized attempt to delineate a countervailing vision of Islam that calls for indefinite peaceful coexistence as equals with non-Muslims, freedom of conscience, or the rejection of elements of Sharia that are at variance with otherwise universally accepted human-rights norms. No Muslim organization, mosque or school in the United States has any program to teach young Muslims and converts to Islam why they should avoid and reject on Islamic grounds the vision of Islam — and of unbelievers — that jihad groups offer them. As Islam scholar Robert Spencer observes, “This is extremely strange, given the fact that all the Muslim organizations, mosques and schools in the United States ostensibly reject this understanding of Islam. And even stranger is that no American authorities seem to have noticed the absence of such initiatives, much less dared to call out Muslim groups about this.”
Deaths Related to Jihad
Bill Warner, Director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam, estimates that Islamic jihad (“holy war”), over the course of its history, has been responsible for the deaths of approximately 270 million non-Muslims around the world. That figure takes into account the following:
- Africans: The eminent scholar Thomas Sowell estimates that 11 million slaves were shipped across the Atlantic and 14 million others were sent to the Islamic nations of North Africa and the Middle East. Moreover, the famous explorer and medical missionary David Livingstone estimated that for every slave who reached his or her intended destination, five others were either killed in the initial raid, or died from illness or privation during the forced march or transport that followed. All told, for the 25 million slaves delivered to the market, there were probably 120 million collateral deaths. Muslims controlled the entire wholesale slave trade in Africa.
- Christians: A rough estimate by Raphael Moore in History of Asia Minor is that 50 million Christians were killed by Muslims waging jihad. Another 9 to 10 million Christians were put to death by Muslims outside the context of jihad.
- Hindus: The Belgian writer Koenraad Elst, in his book Negationism in India, gives an estimate of 80 million Hindus killed in the Islamic jihad against India.
- Buddhists: Jihad killed roughly 10 million Buddhists in Turkey, Afghanistan, India, and along the Silk Route.
- Jews: The jihad in Arabia was 100 percent effective, but its Jewish victims numbered in the thousands, not millions. After that, the Jews submitted and became the dhimmis (servants and second-class citizens) of Islam and did not have geographic political power.
The primary meaning of the Arabic word “jihad” is the waging of war against the enemies of Islam. It can also refer to the struggle between good and evil within an individual’s soul. This metaphorical understanding of jihad was developed by the Sufis, the Muslim mystics, in the ninth century AD, based on a hadith (oral tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad. On the basis of this hadith, spiritual jihad was termed “the Greater Jihad” (al-jihad al-akbar), while jihad on the battlefront was termed “the Lesser Jihad” (al-jihad al-asghar).
A standard 11th-grade textbook used in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority makes jihad’s meaning plain for its student readers:
“Jihad is the Islamic term equivalent to the word ‘war’ among other nations. The difference is that jihad is [war] for the sake of noble and exalted goals, and for the sake of Allah… whereas other nations’ wars are wars of evil for the sake of occupying land and seizing natural resources, and for other materialistic goals and base aspirations.”
To properly understand the place of jihad in the Muslim worldview, it is important to keep in mind that Islam has been, from its very beginning, not only a religion but a political community — the nation of Islam (ummat al-Islam). Muhammad was not merely a prophet communicating the word of God, but a political leader and military commander. Hence, any victory by the army of a Muslim state over non-Muslims is perceived as a victory for Islam itself. According to Islam, Allah promised the Muslims victory and superiority over all other religions worldwide. Allah validated this message with the Battle of Badr, in Ramadan of 624 AD, when 300 Muslim warriors under Muhammad’s command vanquished the 950-strong army of the Quraysh tribe — a military feat which played a crucial role in shaping the Islamic consciousness.
This victory was not an isolated event. Rather, it was the harbinger of an impressive series of victories that led to the rise of a Muslim empire stretching from India to the Atlantic Ocean. The Prophet Muhammad’s assertion that “Islam is superior and cannot be surpassed” reflects the Muslim sense of superiority, and this self-perception remained unshaken for many centuries, even when the political and military reality no longer supported it.
According to the traditional Muslim outlook, humanity is divided into two groups: the followers of Islam who are called “believers,” and all non-Muslims, who are called “infidels.” It is the duty of the Muslims to propagate the one true faith — Islam — throughout the world. Should the infidels refuse to embrace Islam, jihad is the means to be used to vanquish them.
Among the infidels, Islam distinguishes between two main groups: “idolaters” or “polytheists” on the one hand, and the “People of the Book” — Jews and Christians — on the other. The People of the Book are granted special status in Islam, and their fate is different from that of the polytheist infidels. The Muslims are commanded to fight the People of the Book until they either accept Islam or agree to pay the poll tax (jizya). The basis for dealing with them is laid down in the Koran: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, of the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya out of hand, in a state of submission…” (Koran 9:29). By paying jizya, the People of the Book indicate that they submit to Muslim rule and accept the status of protected people, called in Arabic ahl al-dhimma.
Just as humanity is divided into believers and infidels, the world itself is also divided into the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam), namely the region under Muslim rule, and the abode of war (dar al-harb), referring to all lands not yet under Muslim rule, which must be conquered by the sword, i.e., through jihad.
Jihad is not regarded as a personal obligation (fard ‘ain) incumbent upon every Muslim. According to the shari’a (Islamic law), jihad is a collective duty (fard kifaya) of the Muslim nation, or community, as a whole. It is the Muslim ruler who decides when and against whom to declare jihad. When a Muslim ruler declares jihad, it becomes a personal obligation for those whom he orders to take part in the war.
There is only one situation in which jihad becomes a personal obligation of each and every Muslim even without an order from the Muslim leadership — namely when non-Muslims attack Muslims or invade a Muslim country. Osama bin Laden and the adherents of extremist Islam claim that this is the situation today; that Islam is under attack, both physically and ideologically, by the infidels who are invading the lands of Islam — Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Therefore, they maintain that waging jihad has become a personal obligation incumbent upon all Muslims.
Jihad is closely linked to the concept of self-sacrifice in battle for the sake of Allah (shahada). Shahada means “martyrdom,” and any Muslim who is killed in the course of war against non-Muslims is a shahid (martyr). Actively pursuing jihad and seeking a martyr’s death (istishhad) is especially laudable.
The Koran does not merely promise the martyr a reward in the world to come; a number of Suras in the Koran contain descriptions of the pleasures of Paradise — food, drink and beautiful women. The Muslim traditionists and commentators greatly elaborated on these descriptions, providing, for example, details about the physical and spiritual characteristics of the black-eyed virgins of Paradise. Every man who enters Paradise is rewarded with 72 such brides.
The distinction of martyrs, compared to other Muslims, lies primarily in the fact that they are guaranteed the privilege of Paradise: The act of falling in battle for the sake of Allah washes away every violation or sin they have committed during their lives. The shahid enters Paradise immediately, without enduring the “torments of the grave” (‘adhab al-qabr), whereas an ordinary Muslim who does not have the privilege of dying as a martyr must wait for the Day of Judgment.
Islamist jihad today has two chief goals, both global. One of these is to wage war against the world’s leading infidel power, the U.S., and all of its allies, particularly Israel. The other goal is to topple the evil regimes in the Muslim countries, because their leaders are only outwardly Muslim. It is thus a religious obligation to fight them, depose them, and establish a truly Islamic regime in their place. The ultimate goal of jihad is to impose Islam on the entire world as the only true religion.
The Islamic Genocide Plan
Radical Islam has become a forum for calls for genocide against the Jews. The following Islamo-fascist leaders speak to this cause in their own words. Included in this summary of promoters of genocide are political figures, terror group leaders, clerics, and scholars. Along with their statements are excerpts from the founding charters and other key documents of various Islamo-fascist organizations.
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, President of Iran:
- “As the Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] said, Israel must be wiped off the map.”
- “… the annihilation of the Zionist regime will come.”
- “The Islamic umma (community) will not allow its historic enemy [Israel] to live in its heartland.”
- “There is no doubt that the new wave [of attacks] in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot [Israel] from the face of the Islamic world.”
- Speaking to ambassadors from Islamic countries ahead of “Al Quds Day” (Jerusalem Day) in August 2012, Ahmadinejad said that a “horrible Zionist current” had been managing world affairs for “about 400 years”; that Zionists were “behind the scene of the world’s main powers, media, monetary and banking centers”; that Zionists “are the decision makers, to the extent that the presidential election hopefuls [of the U.S.] must go and kiss the feet of the Zionists to ensure their election victory”; that “liberating Palestine” would be “a key for solving the world problems”; and that “anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the way for world justice and freedom.”
The Charter of Hamas (1988):
The Charter of Hamas explicitly abjures negotiated settlements as mechanisms for peaceful coexistence: “There is no other solution for the Palestinian problem other than jihad. All the initiatives and international conferences are a waste of time and a futile game.” The Charter further states: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
- “Anyone who reads the Koran and the holy writings of the monotheistic religions sees what they did to the prophets, and what acts of madness and slaughter the Jews carried out throughout history . . . Anyone who reads these texts cannot think of co-existence with them, of peace with them, or about accepting their presence, not only in Palestine of 1948 but even in a small village in Palestine, because they are a cancer which is liable to spread again at any moment.”
- “[I]f they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
- “Put a knife in your shirt, then get close to an Israeli occupier and stab him.”
- “Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute. . . . Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, ‘Death to America’ will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: ‘Death to America.’”
- “Martyrdom operations — suicide bombings — should be exported outside Palestine. I encourage Palestinians to take suicide bombings worldwide. Don’t be shy about it.”
- “There is no dialogue between us [Muslims and Jews] except by the sword and the rifle …”
Hezbollah’s Founding Statement:
- The Hezbollah Founding Statement contains a section titled “The Necessity for the Destruction of Israel,” which reads as follows: “We see in Israel the vanguard of the United States in our Islamic world. It is the hated enemy that must be fought until the hated ones get what they deserve. . . . Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated. We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies . . .”
Yasser Arafat, late leader of the PLO:
- “We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. . . . We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem.”
- “Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war, a war which will last for generations.”
- “Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.”
Jibril Rajoub, former head of the Palestinian Authority police and national security advisor to Yasser Arafat:
- “Israel is a cancer in the region, by Allah, I’m sure every speck of Palestine from the sea to the river — will return to us!”
- “Listen we as yet don’t have a nuke. But I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.” (2013)
- (Note: Whenever the media needed a “moderate” Palestinian Arab official to quote, they would mention Jibril Rajoub. CBS News describes him in its bio as “a moderate” who was “a longtime player in peace talks and truce negotiations with Israel.” The New York Times once described him as “the West Bank security chief, who is known as one of the more moderate and pragmatic Palestinian officials.” The left-wing Geneva Initiative ran ads featuring Jibril Rajoub telling Israelis in Hebrew, “I am your partner” and informing them that there is a historic opportunity for peace with a Palestinian leadership committed to a two-state solution.)
Excerpts from sermons by Palestinian Authority clerics:
- “We the Palestinian nation, our fate from Allah is to be the vanguard in the war against the Jews until the resurrection of the dead, as the prophet Mohammed said: ‘The resurrection of the dead will not arrive until you will fight the Jews and kill them…’”
- “Blessed is he who fights jihad in the name of Allah, blessed is he who [goes on] raids in the name of Allah, blessed is he who dons a vest of explosives on himself or on his children and goes in to the depth of the Jews and says: ‘Allahu Akbar, blessed be Allah.’ Like the collapse of the building upon the heads of the Jews in their sinful dance-hall, I ask of Allah that we see the Knesset collapsing on the heads of the Jews.”
- “The Jews are the Jews. . . . [I]t is necessary to slaughter them and murder them, according to the words of Allah… it is forbidden to have mercy in your hearts for the Jews in any place and in any land. Make war on them anyplace that you find yourself. Any place that you encounter them — kill them. Kill the Jews and those among the Americans that are like them . . . Have no mercy on the Jews, murder them everywhere . . .”
Suleiman Abu Gheith, al Qaeda spokesman:
- “America is the reason for all oppression, injustice, licentiousness, or suppression that is the Muslims’ lot. . . . We have the right to kill 4 million Americans — 2 million of them children — and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons. . . . America is kept at bay by blood alone.”
Al Qaeda document titled “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders:
- “… [I]n compliance with God’s order, we issue the following fatwah [ruling on Islamic law] to all Muslims: The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it … to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.”
- “Islamic governments have never and will never be established through peaceful solutions and cooperative councils. They are established as they [always] have been by pen and gun, by word and bullet, by tongue and teeth. . . . [An] Islamic government would never be established except by the bomb and rifle. Islam does not coincide or make a truce with unbelief, but rather confronts it. The confrontation that Islam calls for with these godless and apostate regimes, does not know Socratic debates, Platonic ideals nor Aristotelian diplomacy. But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun.”
Yahya Raheem Safavi, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander:
- “We must keep the hatred of America burning in our hearts until the moment of revenge arrives.”
Understanding Radical Islam
Fundamentalist Islam presents itself, on the one hand, as an intensified reaffirmation of faith in a transcendent God. But on the other hand, it is a militant ideology, demanding political action now. In one instance it takes the form of a populist party, asking for ballots. Showing another face, its spokesmen, evoking deep, longstanding historical resentments against the West, call for bullets. The moralists of fundamentalism pour scorn on Western consumer culture as debilitating to Islam, yet its strategists avidly seek to buy the West’s latest technologies in order to strengthen Islam.
Fundamentalist Islam remains an enigma precisely because it has confounded all attempts to divide it into tidy categories. “Revivalist” becomes “extremist” (and vice versa) with such rapidity and frequency that the actual classification of any movement or leader has little predictive power. They will not stay put. This is because fundamentalist Muslims, for all their “diversity,” orbit around one central idea: Islam must have power in this world. It is the true religion — the religion of God — and its truth is manifest in its power. When Muslims believed, they were powerful. Their power has been lost in modern times because true Islam has been abandoned. But if Muslims now return to the original Islam, they can preserve and even restore their power.
That return, to be effective, must be comprehensive and must accept one basic principle: Islam provides the one and only solution to all questions in this world, from public policy to private conduct. It is not merely a religion, in the Western sense of a system of belief in God. It possesses an immutable law, revealed by God, that deals with every aspect of life, and it is an ideology, a complete system of belief about the organization of the state and the world. This law and ideology can only be implemented through the establishment of a truly Islamic state. The empowerment of Islam, which is God’s plan for mankind, is a sacred end and can be pursued by any means necessary. At various times, these have included persuasion, guile, and violence.
Critics of the Guantanamo Bay detention center have consistently charged that the prisoners in Guantanamo are routinely denied their basic human and civil rights, and that they are often abused and/or tortured by American authorities.
The major media have broadcast these claims widely. 60 Minutes, for instance, featured Sgt. Erik Saar’s allegations that interrogators had denied prisoners’ requests for water. The BBC repeated sordid tales from released detainees like Mamdouh Habib, who alleged that he had been subjected to a vicious beating, a gang-rape, and electro-shock treatment. BBC also gave air time to British detainee Jamal al-Harith’s claim that Americans had offered prisoners “filthy” water, fed them food that was ten years out of date, and performed gratuitous amputations. The Toronto Sun reported the fantastic claim of 15-year-old Omar Khadr, the son of a prime al-Qaeda financier, who said that Guantanamo guards had thrashed him and had used his body to mop up urine from a floor. And Newsweek magazine infamously reported an allegation that a G.I. had flushed a Koran down a Guantanamo toilet. (Before the Newsweek story was revealed to be completely false, 16 people had died as a result of Muslim riots protesting the alleged affront to their faith.)
Even more than the media, groups of the far Left and their allies in the Democratic Party led the way in disseminating anti-Guantanamo propaganda. Chief among these was the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which published “Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo,” a 115-page report by former detainees Asef Iqbal, Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, who claimed that Guantanamo employees had sprayed detainees with mace, “forced” them to undergo “injections with unknown drugs,” and denied them medical treatment.
The International Committee of the Red Cross called the treatment which detainees received at Guantanamo “tantamount to torture.” Amnesty International referred to Guantanamo as “the gulag of our time.” Human Rights Watch (HRW) repeated the claims verbatim. HRW’s U.S. Advocacy Director Wendy Patten called Guantanamo “the Bermuda Triangle of human rights.” All these statements were publicized heavily to the Arab world by Al-Jazeera.
The propaganda of these groups and individuals fed off the ever-more-extremist rhetoric of the Democratic Party Left. Senator Richard Durbin, for one, compared the Guantanamo Bay interrogators to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — who have no concern for human beings.” Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, along with 2008 presidential hopeful Joe Biden, called for shutting down Guantanamo. Clinton said, “It’s time that there are no more stories coming out of there about people being abused…. If we get a reputation for abusing people, it puts our own soldiers much more at risk.” Biden claimed Guantanamo “has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists.”
In response to these and many other allegations, the U.S. government conducted twelve separate probes in a fifteen-month period during 2004–05 and found no evidence of abuse beyond a handful of minor incidents that were rare aberrations. In 2004 Vice Admiral Albert Church concluded that the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo “is a model that should be considered for use in other interrogation operations in the global war on terror.” In a July 2005 appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. Randall “Mark” Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow reported that their own extensive research had uncovered only four unpunished abuses out of 24,000 interrogations which they conducted at Guantanamo. Those abuses included the following:
- A male interrogator once threatened to “go after” a terrorist suspect’s family;
- One terrorist had his mouth duct-taped shut after he refused to quit chanting; and
- Twice detainees were briefly chained to the floor.
Notably, Schmidt and Furlow found no substantiation for allegations that terror suspects had been chained for hours and forced to defecate on themselves, nor that Guantanamo interrogators had kept their prisoners in excessively hot or cold rooms — two claims that Senator Durbin had made on the Senate floor. Nor was there any evidence that the military had denied prisoners food or medical necessities.
The reality of Guantanamo Bay bears no resemblance to the dark picture painted by the critics. All the detainees are supplied with Islamic religious items including a Koran, prayer mat, and cap. Loudspeakers in the camps broadcast the Muslims’ call to prayer five times each day. All prisoners’ meals are certified halal (adhering to Islamic law) by Guantanamo’s Muslim chaplain. Religious services are held for the prisoners on a regular basis. The floor of every cell has a stenciled arrow pointing toward Mecca, so that prisoners may face the correct direction while saying their prayers. Guantanamo’s 6,000-book library is well stocked with Islamic literature as well as books and DVDs on a wide range of subjects. There is an outdoor basketball court, and a special classroom where detainees can learn English, Arabic, or Pashtu. Guantanamo’s medical facilities are staffed by dentists, internal medicine practitioners, psychiatrists, nurses, and even special translators who do not interact with guards. The detainee hospital provides top-level care 24 hours a day. That includes access to a pharmacy, which distributes some 400 medications daily, as well as a state-of-the-art radiology room, complete with CAT scan capabilities. It is also noteworthy that between April 2002 and March 2003, the detainees, rather than suffering from malnutrition, had gained an average of 13 pounds apiece.
All of these assertions have been verified by independent observers.
In the first weeks of the war on terror, American forces took a large number of prisoners from the battlefield. Estimates are that more than 70,000 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters were captured and screened. Of those, approximately 800 were deemed to be of such high value for intelligence purposes, or to pose such severe threats as individuals, that they needed to be interrogated and confined in a maximum-security locale. These were the men who were sent to Guantanamo.
Fully 92 percent of the Guantanamo detainees are known to have had connections to al Qaeda, the Taliban, and similar terrorist outfits prior to their incarceration. They are neither innocent foot soldiers nor confused Afghan farmers who were unwittingly drafted by the Taliban, as some critics of the prison have charged. They are Islamic fundamentalists from across the Middle East, rabid jihadists who have dedicated their lives to the destruction of America and Western civilization. Among them are al-Qaeda organizers, bomb makers, financial specialists, recruiters of suicide attackers, and cold-blooded killers. Many of these men met frequently with Osama bin Laden prior to their capture. The terrorist Maad Al Qahtani, a Saudi who is a self-confessed collaborator with the 9/11 hijackers, is one of them.
All soldiers and sailors working “inside the wire” have blacked out their name tags so the detainees will not learn their identities. Before that step was taken, the terrorists were threatening to tell their al-Qaeda allies still at large who the guards were. “We will look you up on the Internet,” the prisoners said. “We will find you and slaughter you and your family in your homes at night. We will cut your throats like sheep. We will drink the blood of the infidel.”
On a daily basis, American soldiers carrying out their duties within Guantanamo’s maximum-security camp are barraged with feces, urine, semen, and spit hurled by the detainees. Secretly fashioned weapons intended for use in attacking guards or fellow detainees are confiscated regularly. When food or other items are passed through the “bean hole” — an opening approximately 4 inches by 24 inches in the cell doors — some detainees have grabbed at the wrists and arms of the Americans feeding them and tried to break their bones.
When guards enter the cells to remove detainees for interrogation sessions, medical visits, or any number of reasons, detainees sometimes climb on the metal bunks and leap on the guards. Others have crammed themselves under their bunks, requiring several guards to extract them. Some have attacked unsuspecting soldiers with steel chairs. Determined to inflict maximum damage, numerous detainees have groped under the protective face masks of the guards, clawing their faces and trying to gouge eyes and tear mouths.
In 2006, there were more than 3,000 recorded incidents of detainee misconduct. These included 432 assaults with bodily fluids, 227 physical assaults, and 99 efforts “to incite a disturbance or riot.”
American soldiers are strictly forbidden from responding in kind. They are constrained to maintain absolute discipline and to follow humane operating procedures at all times, at risk of serious punishment for failure to do so. Documents obtained by the Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show, for instance, that when one U.S. soldier delivered two blows to an inmate’s head while trying to defend a guard who had been punched in the mouth by that inmate, the soldier was dropped in rank to private. In a different incident, an MP whom one inmate had doused with toilet water responded by spraying the offending inmate with a hose; for this, the MP was charged with assault. Another American soldier was disciplined for cursing at inmates. And in yet another case, a guard who punched a detainee after being struck and spit upon (while placing the man in restraints in the prison hospital in October 2004), was recommended for a reduction in rank, the loss of a month’s pay, and extra duty for 45 days.
It is noteworthy that the Guantanamo detainees, while exceedingly dangerous and even pathological in their desire to kill Westerners, are generally well-educated and broadly traveled. Several detainees have advanced degrees in law, engineering, and medicine from American and European schools like the University of London. Others are highly skilled technical experts with advanced training and knowledge of electronics and demolitions. Many of them came from middle-class or wealthy families.
Jihadists are created by a formal and informal education that begins in early childhood with collaborating messages from parents, teachers, textbooks, clerics, television programs, and the ambient culture. These major influences imbue youngsters with contempt for non-Muslms (“infidels”), and with a yearning to experience the glories of jihad, which, according to the Quran, will earn its participants eternal rewards in Paradise. The Quran contains many verses that stress the importance (and the nobility) of jihad. For example:
- “But do not think of those that have been slain in God’s cause as dead. Nay, they are alive! With their Sustainer have they their sustenance. They are very happy with the reward they received from Allah (for dying as a shaheed) and they rejoice for the sake of those who have not joined them (i.e., have not yet died for Allah).” (Quran 3:169–70)
- “Truly Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure” (Quran 61:4).
- “Allah has purchased the believers, their lives and their goods. For them (in return) is the Garden [of paradise]. They fight in Allah’s Cause, and they slay and are slain; they kill and are killed . . . it [paradise] is the promise of Allah to them.” (Quran 9:111)
The impact of such passages is multiplied if a young person happens to come into contact with recruiters for Islamist and jihadist organizations. Former jihadist Tawfiq Hamid recalls that as a teenager, for instance, he met some members of the terrorist group Jamaah Islamiyah. Their rhetoric influenced him, and as a result: “My hatred toward non-Muslims increased dramatically, and jihadi doctrine became second nature to me.”
At one point during its earliest years of operation, the Guantanamo Bay detention center housed as many as 780 prisoners who were suspected of helping to plan or carry out terrorist activities against the United States. By early 2010, just 198 of them remained in custody; the rest had been released by American authorities and repatriated to their home countries. According to a December 2010 assessment by the Director of National Intelligence, fully 25 percent of the detainees who had been freed were either known to have returned, or were suspected of having returned, to jihadist pursuits against the U.S. and its interests.
One of the more noteworthy prisoners released from Guantanamo was Abdullah Mehsud, a 28-year-old Pakistani who was freed in 2004 after 25 months in custody. Once he had been let go, he promptly resumed his alliance with al Qaeda and helped mastermind an October 9, 2004 kidnapping of two Chinese nationals who were involved in the building of Pakistan’s Gomal Zam Dam. Mehsud now holds the distinction of being Pakistan’s most wanted man, and is described in a report in the London Independent as a “growing legend” among rebel Pakistanis.
Another former Guantanamo detainee is Ali al-Shihri, a Saudi national who, despite having undergone urban warfare training in Afghanistan, was released in 2007 on the condition that he fulfill his pledge to return home, live a peaceful life, and work in his family’s furniture store. Instead, Al-Shihri and another Saudi who had already been released from Guantanamo, Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, collaborated to spearhead the expansion of an al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen. In January 2009, Al-Shihri mocked the United States for having released him, saying that his (and his comrades’) stay in Guantanamo had only “increased our persistence and adherence to our principles.” Al-Shihri is now deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that claimed responsibility for the attempted bomb attack on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.
Islamo-fascism shares a number of key traits with the European fascism popularized by Mussolini and Hitler during the 1930s. Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. (“Death to the intellect! Long live death!” as Gen. Francisco Franco’s sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except insofar as it is capable of constructing or supplying weapons of war). Both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined “humiliations” and are thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia. Both are inclined to leader worship and unquestioning obedience. Both have a strong commitment to the subordination of women and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence. And both burn books and art treasures.
Moreover, Al-Qaeda’s demands that countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia be dissolved into one great revived caliphate is a goal that has points of resemblance with Hitler’s quest to create a “Greater Germany,” or with Mussolini’s fantasy of a revived Roman empire.
While not exactly similar, both Islamo-fascism and European fascism are totalitarian systems of thought that stress suicidal tactics and sacrificial ends; both would rather see the destruction of their own societies than any compromise with infidels or any dilution of their doctrinal orthodoxy.