By Jeffrey Imm
1. Why We Must Ask Why
A year ago, the Congressional Research Service published a report for law enforcement agencies on "precursor crimes," or crimes committed conducted for fundraising efforts by terrorist groups. The report's introduction begins with the phrase "irrespective of ideology," and then goes on to address tactical issues in recognizing criminal patterns that may be precursors of terrorist efforts.
Unfortunately, that same introductory phrase, "irrespective of ideology," could be applied to too many discussions and analyses offered to law enforcement and counterterrorist organizations regarding terrorist threats and issues. Many Americans have come to believe that fighting terrorism is a tactical debate that does not involve examining terrorist ideologies and politics. Fighting terrorism has been focused on stopping criminals and preventing their plots to murder, maim, and damage, or focused on military efforts in foreign battlefields to target specific defined terrorist individuals and threats. In the United States homeland, many millions of American dollars have been invested in electronic detection devices, databases of potentially threatening individuals, monitoring of suspicious telephone calls and communications, and educating the American public on preparedness on what to do in the event of another terrorist attack in their community. There are specialists that review suspicious financial transactions and linguists that translate suspicious communications in foreign languages. An encyclopaedic body of research on terrorist individuals, groups, actions, plots, and threats has been captured and continues to be updated by counterterrorist researchers on a daily basis.
Among this vast effort by learned and skilled individuals one word remains conspicuously absent from much of the analysis and debate. That one missing word is "why?"
"Why" individuals and organizations choose to pursue Jihadist terrorism matters.
Without an agreed-upon answer to the question "why," we have seen inconsistency in American law enforcement, in American counterterrorism, and in American foreign policy approaches to addressing Jihadist terrorism.
The following are several examples of how the refusal to answer "why" and address the ideological challenges behind terrorism has led to convoluted and contradictory tactical efforts in law enforcement and in counterterrorism.
-- CAIR. In Dallas, Texas, at the ongoing recent retrial of the Holy Land Foundation for alleged financial support to the terrorist group Hamas, FBI Special Agent Lara Burns recently testified regarding an unindicted co-conspirator organization in that trial, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). According to FBI Agent Burns' testimony on October 7, 2008, at a 1993 gathering of Holy Land Foundation and Hamas, "inconspicuous" American organizations were being sought to serve as "fronts" for efforts to spread an Islamic supremacist ideology, and FBI Agent Burns testified that she believed CAIR fit this mold. But this is the same CAIR organization that has been providing training on its view of Islam to FBI agents, Immigration and Customs Officials, and law enforcement agencies since 2004. According to CAIR's Ibrahim Hooper, "representatives of CAIR chapters nationwide have met with TSA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials on issues related to cultural sensitivity and national security and the Department of Justice." CAIR is also an attendee of an influential advisory panel's meetings on homeland security and the Investigative Project of Terrorism reports that "several members of Congress maintain close ties with CAIR" (Jim McDermott, Keith Ellison, Sheila Jackson Lee, Bill Pascrell, Dennis Kucinich). On October 14, 2008, FOX News reported an update to the search for wanted criminal Yaser Abdel Said, alleged to be responsible for the "honor killing" of his daughter Sarah and Amina Said. The report showed that the FBI wanted poster added more information about the search for the fugitive Said, and stated "[r]eportedly, the girls were murdered due to an 'Honour Killing.'" After Mustafaa Carroll, the Executive Director of CAIR in Dallas, complained about this, the FBI Wanted poster was changed to remove the usage of the term "honour killing."
-- Hamas. Regarding Hamas, it should be remembered that CAIR's founder and Executive Director Nihad Awad is a documented supporter of the Hamas Islamic supremacist organization, stating "I am in support of the Hamas movement." According the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization listing, Hamas is a terrorist organization to the United States. In addition, the Hamas terrorist organization charter promotes the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" that was frequently referenced by Adolf Hitler's Nazi party and in Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. But while Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization in the United States, we have also seen former U.S. President Jimmy Carter meeting with and embracing Hamas individuals for negotiations. We have seen the Washington Post and the New York Times publishing commentaries from Hamas supporters praising Hamas. And after the last Holy Land Foundation trial, at least one of the jurors stated in effect that he didn't view Hamas as really being a terrorist organization. In the United Kingdom, Hamas is not on the British list of terrorist organizations. Hamas supporters have openly appeared on British television shows and at conferences, and Britons Omar Sharif and Shmuel Cohen reportedly "were the first foreign nationals used by the Palestinian group Hamas to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel." British MP George Galloway publicly sought to direct donations to the Hamas-front British charity Interpal.
-- Hezbollah. A year ago, the CIA's Nada Nadim Prouty pleaded guilty to secretly obtaining unauthorized sensitive information about ongoing FBI terrorist investigations on the terrorist organization Hezbollah. Prouty, who held a Top Secret/SCI clearance, accessed restricted FBI and CIA computer records to obtain information about Hezbollah investigations involving her family, which included Talal Chahine who was accused of money laundering of $20 million to Hezbollah. At the time, this was viewed as a serious infiltration of law enforcement and counterterrorism. The background check on Prouty and ongoing research by the CIA apparently never showed her naturalization fraud, her cousin Nidal Al-Aouar's links to terrorism, or her family connections to Hezbollah. In May 2008, Prouty merely got a $750 fine, and Chahine fled the country to escape indictment. A few weeks later in May 2008, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Cherthoff warned that Hezbollah "makes Al Qaeda look like a minor league team," and poses the greatest threat to national security. In September 2008, an organization called the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project published a report that states that the United States should assess negotiations with Hezbollah, a report that has been praised by influential bipartisan Senate and House of Representative leaders. In the United Kingdom, Hezbollah was not even viewed as a terrorist organization until July 2008 (because of its actions in Iraq), and in the past year, the British government has allowed Hezbollah speakers to tour the United Kingdom to promote the Hezbollah organization.
-- Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational Islamic supremacist organization whose motto is "Jihad is our way, Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope," and whose stated objectives are to build an Islamic caliphate ("Building the Khilafa") and "[m]astering the world with Islam." The Holy Land Foundation trial revealed a 1991 memorandum from the Muslim Brotherhood showing that it seeks to infiltrate the United States. Mohamed Akram's (aka Mohamed Adlouni) memorandum was included as evidence in the Holy Land Foundation trial (HLF Exhibit GX 3-85 -- "An Explanatory Memorandum: On the General Strategic Goal for the Group"). This memorandum clearly communicates the Ikhwan's ["Brotherhood"] goals to infiltrate and undermine America: "The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process' with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions." "As for the role of the Ikhwan, it is the initiative, pioneering, leadership, raising the banner and pushing people in that direction (the Jihadist process). They are then able to employ, direct, and unify Muslims' efforts and powers for this process. In order to do that, we must possess a master of the art of 'coalitions,' the art of 'absorption' and the principles of 'cooperation.'"
Per the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Mohamed Akram "was on the initial board of directors of the United Association of Studies and Research (UASR), a HAMAS front that was based in Northern Virginia from approximately 1991 through 2004. UASR, an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF case, was headed by Ahmed Yousef who now serves as political advisor to head of HAMAS in Gaza, Ismail Haniya."
However, various leaders in counterterrorism have called for engagement and negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood and Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups. Counterterror analyst Peter Bergen has indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood can recruit so-called "moderates." On Capitol Hill, counterterror analyst Evan Kohlmann has called for talks with the Muslim Brotherhood. In June 2008, the West Point Combating Terrorism (CTC) Sentinel published an article by George Mason professor Peter Mandaville who calls for American engagement with groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood to help develop our counterterrorism policies. In September 2008, the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project released a report calling for U.S. engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood; again this report has been praised by influential bipartisan Senate and House of Representative leaders, including Senator Richard Lugar and Congressman Howard Berman. The group that developed this U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project includes a foreign policy advisor to one of the U.S. presidential candidates (Dennis Ross, Mideast foreign policy advisor for the Barack Obama campaign).
-- ISNA and MPAC. ISNA and MPAC are organizations that require close scrutiny.
As part of the Holy Land Foundation terror finance trial, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator. But while ISNA has been an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, this did not stop other representatives of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security from attending ISNA's past annual conventions. At ISNA's past annual conventions, including its most recent one on August 29 through September 1, 2008, ISNA has had speakers such as:
--- Siraj Wahhaj - who served as a character witness for convicted 1993 World Trade Center terrorist "blind sheik" Omar Rahman, and who has who reportedly called for replacing the American government with a caliphate
--- Ihsan Bagby: "we [Muslims] can never be full citizens of this country... because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country."
--- Zaid Shakir: "Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country"
--- Individuals who have supported Hamas such as CAIR's Nihad Awad, or who have been thanked by Hamas for their support such as Muzammil Siddiq
ISNA's President Ingrid Mattson has been a speaker at national U.S. political party conventions, and is also a member of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project organization that calls for engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is an American Islamic group that has met with FBI Director Mueller and other government individuals, and portrays itself as a group that is against "terrorism." MPAC has attended Washington, D.C. policy institute meetings on homeland security policy issues. In 2006, MPAC received the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award. According to the Department of Justice, "[s]ince 2000, MPAC has worked together with the FBI to address civil rights, terrorism, hiring and recruitment matters." But the history of MPAC leaders' and documented statements should raise questions to law enforcement and counterterrorism organizations.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism has reported that MPAC has lobbied to remove Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah from U.S. terrorist group listings. In 2004, MPAC developed a poster for its convention about "the faces that are always talking about terrorism" including an image of Osama Bin Laden and Steven Emerson, and declaring that "Now It's Our Turn... [To] counter religious and political extremism." That same year, MPAC published "CounterProductive CounterTerrorism" which declares its purpose as presenting a "case study on Steve Emerson with the purpose of rebutting anti-Islamic rhetoric," and which compares Steven Emerson to "Sen. Joseph McCarthy." [Page 12]
After the 9/11 attacks, MPAC's Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati reportedly told a Los Angeles radio show: "If we're going to look at suspects we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what's happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies." In 1996, MPAC's Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati also reportedly equated jihad terrorists with American Revolutionary War fighters. Salam Al-Marayati has met with Pentagon officials, claims to have met with FBI officials, and has been a featured panelist for the Council for Foreign Relations. MPAC Senior Advisor Maher Hathout told the National Press Club in 1998 that "Hezbollah is fighting for freedom...This is legitimate." MPAC spokeswoman Edina Lekovic was managing editor for Al-Talib when it instructed Muslim readers to "defend our brother" Osama bin Laden, and "refer to him as a freedom fighter, someone who has forsaken wealth and power to fight in Allah's cause and speak out against oppressors. We take these stances only to please Allah."
-- Pro-Jihad Groups against Al-Qaeda? At the same time part of the U.S. federal government has been seeking removal of the term "jihad" from the lexicon of federal government discussion on terrorism, there has been increasing efforts to accommodate those individuals who support "jihad," but are against specific terrorist organizations. One example is the oft-referenced "anti-Al-Qaeda" individual Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif (aka Dr. Fadl), whose alleged "renunciation" of Al-Qaeda has been used as an example in numerous counterterrorism articles, including the July 2008 issue of West Point Combating Terrorism Center's Sentinel by Michael Jacobson, and a June 11, 2008 New Republic article by counterterror analysts Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank titled "The Unraveling - The jihadist revolt against bin Laden." Al-Sharif's example is also being promoted by the U.S. government in a "war of ideas" against "violent extremists," according to James K. Glassman, the U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. The United Kingdom's Home Office's Research, Information and Communication Unit (RICU) is also trying to win a "hearts and minds" war for British Muslims by promoting Al-Sharif's criticism of Al-Qaeda.
These government organizations or counter terror analysts are not interested in pointing out that Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif is an Islamic supremacist that supports Jihad. While "renouncing" Al-Qaeda, Al-Sharif is also quoted as stating: "Jihad in Afghanistan will lead to the creation of an Islamic state with the triumph of the Taliban, God willing." Al-Sharif also supports Jihad in Iraq and Israel as well. In September 2008, I attended a counterterrorism panel on Capitol Hill where such support of Jihad was defended by the Quilliam Foundation's Maajid Nawaz who defended the right of such Jihadists to fight under the Geneva Convention; Nawaz has provided testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on counterterrorism measures. At the same September 2008 Capitol Hill counterterrorism panel, counter terror analyst Paul Cruickshank provided an example of a British Muslim who is fighting so-called "extremism," but who has given money to the Taliban for use in Afghanistan and who condemns America's actions there.
Most recently, we have seen U.S. military leaders promoting Afghanistan's calls for negotiations with the Taliban and seeking a "political settlement" with the Taliban in Afghanistan. News reports have claimed that there are Afghani individuals who claim that the Taliban is willing to "split" from Al-Qaeda for so-called "peace" negotiations. (Other sources claim that these individuals do not represent the Taliban.) This is the latest manifestation of a tactic that believes that America can support negotiations with Jihadist groups as long as they are not aligned with Al-Qaeda.
-- Al-Qaeda. Perhaps the only aspect of the enemy threat where there is significant agreement on among counterterrorism and government officials is in regards to Al-Qaeda. However, in the United Kingdom, even that "absolute" is fuzzy. The United Kingdom Security Minister Lord West has stated that he supports secret talks with Al-Qaeda, as has the United Kingdom's Sir Hugh Orde (who is reported as "a potential successor to Sir Ian Blair as commissioner of the Metropolitan police.") Tony Blair's chief of staff from 1995 to 2007, Jonathan Powell, has also called for negotiations with Al-Qaeda. Given the increasing influence of United Kingdom tactics on U.S. counterterrorism policies, this disturbing relativism reinforces the urgent need for America to step back and take a serious, strategic view of its counterterrorism tactics.
The inconsistency and contradictions by American law enforcement, counterterrorism community, foreign policy community, and government leadership is due to the failure to agree upon whom and what is our enemy threat. There continues to be a stubborn refusal to have a meaningful national dialogue on the question "why."
Seven years after the 9/11 attacks and thousands of documents addressing "who, what, where, when, and how" on terrorism, it is time that we finally get around to honestly asking the question "why."
2. Understanding the Ideological Threat to America
2.1. The Threat Discussion Thus Far
To understand the threat to America, we must first review the baseline assumptions of American leadership thus far.
A. America's leadership views terrorism as a major national security threat.
B. America's priorities have been for homeland security tactical preparedness to prevent another 9/11 "mass casualty" terrorist attack, and for military tactical activities in Afghanistan and Iraq.
C. For American homeland security measures, funding priority has been for targeted areas that are likely to be the greatest risk of a future terrorist attack.
These baseline assumptions are largely in response to the 9/11 attacks on America. As a result of the 9/11 attacks, America's leadership created a Department of Homeland Security to lead homeland security tactical initiatives. In September 2001, the U.S. Congress passed an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that called for action against "those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States," including "nations, organizations, or persons he [the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons." A year later, in October 2002, Congress then passed the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq that "authorizes the use of all necessary means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions and to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that threaten international peace and security."
Neither of these documents use the terms "jihad," "Islamist," or "Islamic supremacist." Like so many documents regarding the terrorist threat, they define an enemy "irrespective of ideology."
All of these actions, all of this investment of resources happened without a clear ideological definition of the "enemy." The focus has been on tactical and targeted activities, without a definition of an enemy ideology that would lead to a coherent national strategy. It is no wonder that American law enforcement, counterterrorism, and foreign policy efforts have at times been contradictory and confusing.
There was a partial attempt to define an enemy ideology in the 2004 9/11 Commission Report, which uses such terms as "Jihad" and "Islamist." A key reference buried in page 562 in the Part 12 of the notes of the 9/11 Commission Report is that "Islamist terrorism is an immediate derivative of Islamism… Islamism is defined as 'an Islamic militant, anti-democratic movement, bearing a holistic vision of Islam whose final aim is the restoration of the caliphate." How many times have you heard American leaders refer to this specific portion of the 9/11 Commission Report in the past four years since its release?
In the vacuum of a clearly defined enemy ideology, American leadership continued to focus on a "Global War on Terrorism," which has recently been revised by leading members of the military and foreign policy branches to address a struggle with "violent extremism." In December 2007, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff began calling for the use of the term "takfiri," instead of "jihad." In January 2008, the DHS published a memorandum calling for the end of use of terms such as "jihad" and "Islamism," based on recommendations from unnamed American Muslims. In March 2008, the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) Extremist Messaging Branch agreed with these recommendations, and created its own "terror lexicon" memorandum. Both the DHS and the NCTC memorandums were forwarded to the U.S. State Department for distribution and guidance to U.S. federal government employees worldwide. In the President's 2008 State of the Union message, a clear signal was sent in using the word "extremists" to define the enemy, a practice that would be adopted by U.S. Defence Secretary Gates and by soon-to-be CENTCOM (Central Command) Commander General Petraeus in April 2008, and was the predominant term of the enemy in the June 2008 National Defence Strategy. The meaningless, but inoffensive term, "extremist" has also been used by Osama Bin Laden in describing his enemies as well. Organizations such as MPAC, ISNA, and CAIR all applauded such government moves away from the use of the term "jihad."
On July 16, 2008, a majority in the House of Representatives rejected the efforts by groups in the U.S. executive branch to develop a "terror lexicon" that excluded Jihad. In a 249-180 vote, a majority of Congress voted to add an amendment to an intelligence funding bill that would prohibit the creation of such a "terror lexicon."
A month later, on August 21, 2008, the U.S. military's CENTCOM received a report from unnamed civilian analysts and contractors working for CENTCOM titled "Freedom of Speech in Jihad Analysis: Debunking the Myth of Offensive Words." An unclassified version of this report was obtained and made public by the Washington Times on October 20, 2008. In this contractor and civilian report, they suggest that efforts at a "terror lexicon" to exclude the use of the term "jihad" are an unnecessary overreaction by the U.S. government.
[Given the very recent release of this report to the public and the relevance to this discussion, I will reference a few passages from it.]
The August 21, 2008 "Freedom of Speech in Jihad Analysis" report states that:
"The fact is our enemies cite the sources of Islam as the foundation of their global jihad. We are left with the responsibility of portraying our enemies in an honest and accurate fashion."
More importantly, the report also states that:
"Additionally, we must not be afraid to engage in analyzing Islam and its tenets without prejudice when the situation calls for such analysis to take place... We must reject the notion that Islam and Arabic stand apart as bodies of knowledge that cannot be critiqued or discussed as elements of understanding our enemies in this conflict."
Moreover, the report further states that:
"There is little that any non-Muslim entity, particularly the USG [U.S. Government], can say that will give the jihadists the legitimacy that they seek. The legitimacy sought by the terrorists is (to them) to be found in the laws of Islam and the firm knowledge that they are fulfilling their personal and communal obligations to jihad. Jihad has already been legitimized as a standing communal obligation (as a means of proselytizing Islam, or Da'wa 'to call one'). This community-wide obligation is referred to in Islamic law by the term fard al-kifaya and it must be performed until the whole world is under the rule of Islam."
While too much of the past year has been focused on lexicon issues whether or not American government officials can use the term "jihad," this latest report provides some optimism that there are some in American government who are concerned about getting America to revisit the strategic definition of our enemy.
2.2. Defining the Threat of the Islamic Supremacist Ideology
What if America's greatest threat was not from terrorists or so-called "extremists"?
What if our baseline tactical assumptions created in reaction to the 9/11 attacks did not address the strategic ideological threat?
Almost every homeland security and every counterterrorist law enforcement-related tactic has been focused on preventing "the next 9/11" attack on America. But the next 9/11 style mass-casualty terrorist attack, no matter how horrific, will not destroy America. We need to be less afraid of "the next 9/11," and more concerned about showing the courage of our convictions in defending America's values and ideals. America is a survivor, because we are much more than buildings and cities. America is more than a nation-state. We are more than individuals and families. We are certainly all of that, and we certainly need to defend all of that. But first and foremost, America is an idea, and our twin towers of equality and liberty will continue to stand as long as we fight for the idea that is America.
In fact, the true threat to America is much larger than terrorist tactics alone.
Unfortunately, America's tactical focus thus far has ignored the tough and essential question "why." It has ignored a national discussion on the ideology behind Jihadist tactics and what that ideology means to America. It has focused on the battles, and ignored the war. It has been so concerned about the "next 9/11," it has forgotten what the ideas and values of America mean to us and to the world.
In the context of the real threat, the threat to the values of America, it is clear that the real threat America faces is the ideology of Islamic supremacism itself.
The ideological, anti-freedom threat of Islamic supremacism threatens the idea of America, and the natural values of equality and liberty that America represents. When America begins to address and understand the ideology of Islamic supremacism, then we will begin to start to fight the real war, not merely battles, not merely preparedness activities, but a war of ideas, a war that will demonstrate if Americans truly have the courage of their convictions. It is the moral challenge of this generation to continue to defend what generations before us fought and died to preserve.
What is Islamic supremacism? Islamic supremacism is an identity-based supremacist ideology that seeks to establish the superiority of Islam over all other religions and individuals until they "feel themselves subdued" (Qur'an 9:29). Islamic supremacism is an ideology that has a segregationist Sharia legal system, whose exclusionary nature denies freedom of religion and many other fundamental human rights of equality. Islamic supremacism seeks the ultimate establishment of a global Islamic caliphate to govern Earth.
All supremacist ideologies seek the transformation of individuals and their behaviour, but the activist nature of Islamic supremacism is more dangerous in that it seeks assimilation as well as transformation of individuals. White supremacist Americans sought to impact the behaviour of black Americans based on their supremacist ideology, but they never sought to convert them into white supremacists. Aryan supremacists sought to impact the behaviour of Jews, but also did not seek to convert them into Aryan supremacists either. This is a boundary inherent in race-based supremacism.
But Islamic supremacism has no such boundaries either of state or of individual converts. Islamic supremacism has no limitations on assimilating others under its ideology. Islamic supremacism has the singular goal of total assimilation or submission of those not assimilated. This infinite activist nature of such a supremacist ideology poses a grave international threat to a civilization that values equality, pluralism, and liberty. Islamic supremacists follow an evangelistic fervour for activist growth not only for the promotion of Islamic supremacist goals in this world, but in support of a supernatural afterlife according to Islam. Another challenge that America faces in addressing Islamic supremacism is that death is not a deterrent to the true Islamic supremacist ideologue.
As the buried and ignored note of the 2004 9/11 Commission Report on "Islamist terrorism" indicated, the root of jihadist actions is found in the ideology of Islamic supremacism [aka "Islamism'] itself. But the threat to America and the world is much greater than terrorism tactics alone. The ideology of Islamic supremacism itself is violence against the natural values of equality and liberty. There truly is no such thing as "non-violent" Islamic supremacism. While Jihadists may find a basis for their tactics in the Islamic supremacist ideology, that is only one tactic. In a total war by the Islamic supremacist ideologues and organizations against the non-Islamic world, every tactic will be employed: political tactics, demographic tactics, financial tactics, military tactics, foreign relations tactics, communications tactics, natural resource tactics, coalition tactics, and denial tactics. Any tactic will be used to secure total, global victory.
This multi-pronged attack by Islamic supremacists includes both a violent Islamic supremacist approach and a so-called "non-violent" Islamic supremacist approach. While many Americans have recognized the threat of Jihadist terrorism, the inability to acknowledge and understand Islamic supremacism as an ideology has provided opportunities Islamic supremacist political organizations. Such Islamic supremacist political organization have seized the opportunity to further their objectives including: influencing America's definition of the enemy, silencing activists from revealing Islamic supremacism's threat, controlling education on Islamic supremacism, and dividing the American public from gaining a consensus on an approach on Islamic supremacism. While the Islamic supremacist political organizations have fed a "chaos strategy" to confuse and divide the American government and its public on the ideological threat, Islamic supremacist terror organizations pose the constant threat of mass casualty terrorist attacks on the American homeland to keep the American government in line so that they better listen to Islamic supremacist politicians - or else.
Recognizing the existence of Islamic supremacism as an ideology does not ignore its component branches in Wahhabist and Khumeinist factions, among others. As the world has clearly seen, there are Sunni Islamic supremacists who wage war against Shiite Islamic supremacists and vice versa. The reality that this overarching ideological threat has branches that disavow and are at war with each other does not in any diminish the reality or the threat to overall ideology of Islamic supremacism itself. Nor can we assume that it is either an effective tactic or strategically sensible to pit one Islamic supremacist faction against another. Any support, any legitimacy that America gives to any Islamic supremacist organization ultimately will increase the overall Islamic supremacist growth and threat against those who value equality and liberty.
If we revisit the primary threat to America being the ideology of Islamic supremacism itself, our priorities and our tactical measures change, and America will be able to develop a coherent multi-faceted strategy to respond to a clearly defined ideological threat. Moreover, American law enforcement, counterterrorism, and foreign policy leaders in America can then recognize those tactical measures that are counterproductive, contradictory, and refocus our finite resources and manpower effectively.
Tactical measures such as "counter-radicalization," popular among some leaders in counterterrorism, which call for engagement with political Islamic supremacist groups, would obviously be wrong. Tactical measures in seeking Jihadists who are against Al-Qaeda would clearly be counterproductive. Tactical measures that are "irrespective of ideology" would clearly make no sense. Negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban would clearly be increasing, not decreasing, the threat of Islamic supremacism. Refusing to recognize the threat of "jihad" and any "Islamic supremacist" component to the threat would aid those groups that seek to influence and infiltrate the American government. Most disturbingly, those efforts to legitimize Islamic supremacist groups by political "engagement," and by "reconciliation" with foreign governments in theaters of battle, would only serve to expand the power and influence to Islamic supremacist groups and ideologies. Such tactics would be against American national security objectives. By furthering the influence of Islamic supremacist ideology which serves as the basis for Jihad, such tactics would inevitably increase (not decrease) the number of future Jihadist threats based on an increasingly legitimized Islamic supremacist ideology.
But in understanding the ideological threat of Islamic supremacism, America must not only recognize what tactics it has to change, but also recognize tactics it has to adopt. Fortunately, America has a unique historical lesson that will aid it in understanding how to fight the Islamic supremacist ideology.
2.3. The Historical Lesson of Ideological Confrontation
Of all the nations with major terrorist organizations, one particularly stands out in that it faced a problem of having 4 million members of a terrorist organization, and likely many more sympathizers of that terrorist group. The nation I am referencing, of course, is the United States of America. In the long war against the ideology of white supremacism, at one point in the mid-1920s, there were up to 4 millions members of the white supremacist terrorist group, the Ku Klux Klan, and there were many more adherents to the political ideology of non-violent white supremacism.
The 100 year war against the ideology of white supremacism to defend the values that "All Men Are Created Equal" in America was a long, uneven struggle. The federal government designated the Ku Klux Klan a "terrorist organization" in 1869. One hundred years later, the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan continued to be a threat to America, and its killings and terrorists actions had not yet ended. But what happened in America in the 1950s through the 1970s was the recognition that to defeat the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan ideology, America needed to confront the ideology of white supremacism itself - in every aspect - in our schools, in the work place, in churches, on buses, in entertainment, in the news media, in sports, and every part of American life and national dialogue.
Every aspect of America's government resources was used in the war against white supremacism:
-- The U.S. military in stopping white supremacists from preventing integrated schools
-- The FBI in rounding up and undermining the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan
-- the Supreme Court in issuing a landmark ruling against white supremacism in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka to end segregated schools in Kansas and 20 other states
Furthermore, our law enforcement took on a domestic intelligence role to undermine the ideology of white supremacism itself. Such domestic counterintelligence operations were not limited to simply attacking such white supremacist terror groups, but also in aiding the press and anti-supremacists in acting against white supremacists. According to a Cambridge University report on the FBI's COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE operation, "FBI secretly coordinated efforts to discredit Klan organizations before local Southern communities that continued to tolerate vigilante violence. Intelligence information on Klan activities, provided discretely by the FBI to liberal Southern journalists, politicians and other molders of public opinion, helped those white Southerners who were opposed to Ku Klux Klan activity to transform their private dismay into public rebuke and criminal prosecutions."
In every corner of America, the war of ideas was waged against the white supremacist ideology - in the homes, in the schools, in the houses of worship, in sports, in entertainment, over the airwaves, in the print media, in the military, in law enforcement, in the political arena, and in the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere. There was no dark space left for advocates of white supremacism to spread their propaganda of hate without a fight. It was a take-no-prisoners war of ideas where the white supremacist politicians' venomous propaganda was defanged by reason, truth, and justice, and was exposed for the savagery that it truly represented.
The federal government and the FBI did not fear a "war of ideas" nor did they look for someone else to lead the charge - it was a national, concerted war of ideas, where everyone - the school teacher, the newspaper writer, the FBI agent, the baseball player, and the average citizen - all played a role, all shared in the sacrifice necessary for defeating the white supremacist ideology - and no one, no one at all - feared using the name or identifying the enemy of the white supremacist.
The war against the white supremacist political ideology was hardly just a war on white supremacist terrorism or the Ku Klux Klan's terrorist tactics. It was a war of ideas that would validate and define America's identity, America's values, and America's dignity. It was a war that honoured the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for defining the ideals of America.
America's total war against the white supremacism provides a historical lesson for Americans today as to the vital importance of confrontation in the total war of ideas that is necessary to fight Islamic supremacism.
2.4. Why Cold War Era Tactics Won't Work On Islamic Supremacism
In some areas of counterterrorism, however, the failure to understand the identity-based supremacist nature of the Islamic supremacist threat has led to use of tactics against statist ideologies that won't work and will be counterproductive. As with most other counterproductive and confused tactics, the root of the problem stems from a failure to acknowledge and understand the Islamic supremacist ideology behind Jihad.
An incorrect analogy gaining popularity in counterterrorism communities is the idea that Islamic supremacists can be "de-radicalized" using tactics used against Communists, during the Cold War, where some Communists were encouraged to move from Communism to "Socialism" to merely being left-wing, as the nature of far-left statists evolved over decades. But looking at the evolution of a statist ideology in the same way as looking at an identity-based supremacist ideology (based on race, religion, etc.), is simply erroneous from both an ideological and a historical perspective.
While there are some similarities in the activist nature of both the ideologies of Communism and Islamic supremacism, the latter has a true transnational activist appeal in that Islamic supremacism is not targeted merely at the transformation of states, but is targeted at the transformation and assimilation of individuals on a global basis. As previously pointed out, Islamic supremacism has no boundaries either of state or of individual converts.
Those who would seek to argue for "de-radicalization" tactics against Islamic supremacists believe that the same Cold War approach to fighting Communism in shades of grey to "de-radicalize" individuals will work for supremacist ideologies as well. The challenge is that such tactical arguments fail to recognize that there are no "grey areas" in a supremacist ideology; it is a truly binary challenge. Supremacists may change tactics, but they don't change ideas. In fact, we have seen frequent reports of Islamic supremacists who call for appeals to political measures, when they don't feel sufficiently empowered for military or Jihadist measures. Adopting different tactics does not change the Islamic supremacist ideology; in a total war by Islamic supremacists against the non-Islamic world, such supremacists have a wide array of tactical measures to choose.
A number in the counterterrorism community are comfortable with this incorrect argument that ignores the binary nature of supremacism, as popular "counter-radicalization" tactics suggest that persuasion (as opposed to confrontation) can be used to avoid inciting individuals to Jihadist terrorism and preventing them from "radicalization." Today's counterterrorism community is particularly vulnerable to this self-deception, due to its inherent focus on preventing terrorist violence, rather than a primary focus being the homeland security of our values of equality and liberty that defines America's identity.
But we need to learn the lessons from American history to avoid another devastating 100 year war, this time against Islamic supremacism. The lesson that we learned was that the only truly effective tactic against identity-based supremacist ideologies is a confrontational war of ideas against its adherents. While we have struggled with inconsistent and contradictory tactics over the past seven years, it is not too late to correct our mistakes and adopt tactics that are based on a strategy that clearly defines the Islamic supremacist ideology behind Jihad.
3. A Strategic Understanding of the Threat
A strategic understanding of the threat of Islamic supremacism will empower American leaders, the American counterterror community, American law enforcement, and American foreign policy leaders.
When facing an ideological supremacist enemy, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance of the enemy ideology is, in fact, used to keep those who might otherwise seek to fight Jihad running in tactical circles. Understanding the strategic threat doesn't necessarily make the war of ideas and effective tactical measures easier, if anything, such hard choices in tactics to fight Islamic supremacism are likely to be more difficult than the random, buckshot tactical approach against "extremists." But what it will do is eliminate contradictory and counterproductive tactics that waste scarce resources in what is still likely to be a long and difficult war.
Furthermore, a strategic understanding of the threat will ensure that America's leadership:
-- Recognizes that political efforts to promote so-called "engagement" with political Islamist supremacists will be just as fruitless as it would have been to "engage" with political white supremacist groups as an effort to end white supremacism in America, and will have the same counterproductive result in legitimizing a supremacist ideology so that it can recruit additional supporters.
-- Recognizes that efforts to achieve so-called "peace," by "reconciliation" negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban in either Afghanistan or Pakistan, with the Islamic supremacist government in Iran, with Islamic supremacists in Iraq, or anywhere else in the world where the United States is facing a military conflict -- will not lead to any type of "peace," but will be perceived as weakness and surrender by Islamic supremacists.
-- Recognizes that by not engaging in a war of ideas promoting the natural values of liberty and equality and contrasting them to the anti-freedom values of Islamic supremacism, we are aiding Islamic supremacists in their recruitment efforts, because if only Islamic supremacists are fighting to defend their values, they are certain to gain increasing numbers of supporters.
By having a better understanding of the enemy, smarter, more strategic decisions can be made by the counterterrorism community, law enforcement, and foreign policy analysts - thinking about the long-term ramifications of actions and policy recommendations, thinking about how legitimizing certain groups with a history of promoting Islamic supremacism will affect our national security. This also means recognizing that there are no American national security objectives gained by legitimizing political Islamic supremacist groups and claiming that their support will help prevent Islamic supremacist terrorism.
Strategic thinking also requires recognition by America's law enforcement, counterterrorism community, and military establishment that the phrase "law and order" does not have universal understanding around the world. In fact, the view of "law and order" in the United States and in Islamic republic’s and kingdoms such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are very different. If you change your religion in the United States, you don't get the death penalty for apostasy. If you disagree with someone's religious views in the United States, you won't be imprisoned or given the death penalty for blasphemy. These are all parts of Americans' understanding of "law and order," based on America's defence of the natural values of equality and liberty. Advocates of Islamic supremacism have a very different view of "law and order," based on the values of a segregationist, supremacist ideology. Let's never forget when Americans are striving for "law and order," we are not striving for the Taliban's version of "law and order." While many Americans may view law enforcement as not fighting an "ideological war," in fact America's law enforcement is on the front line of such an ideological war, enforcing laws based on the values of equality and liberty that are fundamental to our identity as Americans.
Making informed choices also means a genuine American government outreach on a grassroots level to those individuals who are willing to listen to the need to reject Islamic supremacism for our shared national security, and who treasure our natural values of equality and liberty -- values that ensure that all Americans have a chance at their dreams in this nation. Such informed choices also means that our law enforcement, our counterterror communities, our foreign policy analysts, and our legislators will shun those organizations with a history of supporting Islamic supremacism who claim that they are speaking for "all Muslims" in America. Such informed choices also means holding our media to higher standards of journalism in media outreach efforts, so that our media is not used by individuals for propaganda efforts to promote an ideology that is opposed to the same values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press that our media is based on.
Making informed choices means that we need to start working smarter, and think several steps ahead in a war of ideas. We have to stop thinking that we can merely throw money or manpower to "do something" reactively to prevent unknown, unpredictable terrorist threats. While we certainly must continue to prioritize funds and manpower to prevent attacks at high-probability targets, it must be realized that there are infinite number of ways of carrying off a terrorist attack. This lesson must be learned from nations such as India, the Philippines, Thailand, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. We can't ban trash cans in every city, bicycles in every street, and packages in every hallway. We can't frisk every person in every market. The painful fact is that those who are determined to perform some type of terrorist act somehow will find a way somewhere. We cannot blanket every inch of America with security from terrorism.
What Americans can do and must do is defend our values. America did not fight white supremacism by shrug-shoulder relativism. America did not end white supremacist segregation policies by being afraid to offend anyone's beliefs. America did not become the "home of the brave" by being afraid to fight for equality and liberty.
Making informed choices in fighting the threat starts with America showing up to fight in the war of ideas. We can't battle the recruitment of Islamic supremacists and the recruitment of Jihadists, by not defending our values, by not pointing out how those American values conflict with Islamic supremacism. We can't fight Jihad by relativists who think the natural laws of equality and liberty are no better than Islamic supremacism's anti-freedom ideology. We can't fight Jihad with American generals who view American Revolution war fighters as merely "thugs," and who compare those who fought for the declaration that "All Men Are Created Equal," as no different than Islamic supremacists who fight for a global caliphate and to impose Sharia law.
America does need to be concerned about the problem of recruitment of Islamic supremacists in many different areas, in our prisons, among troubled youth, in certain mosques, and through the influence of foreign-funded Islamic supremacist organizations that have spread and distributed pamphlets and brochures that encourage supremacist views and hatred of non-Muslims. America does need to be concerned about the growing activities on the Internet where Islamic supremacism is spread, and must work to counteract such influences on youth and people who can be influenced by this. America does need to be concerned about the failure of the America media to communicate the depth and global reach of the threat, a media that has repeatedly published commentaries from supporters of terrorist and Islamic supremacist organizations, a media that frequently refuses to address the Islamic supremacist history of individuals in groups like CAIR, MPAC, MAS, and ISNA as they interview their spokespeople and promote their propaganda.
But if Americans really want to stop the growing recruitment of Islamic supremacists, the first thing that we need to do is to defend the values of equality and liberty in a consistent, uncompromising way. Defending equality and liberty will upset some nations, some organizations, and some individuals. Already we have seen the Department of Homeland Security's January 2008 memorandum that offers "recommendations from American Muslims" stating that America should promote "progress" over "liberty" to avoid offending some Muslims in the world. But you won't see any memorials to "progress" in America's capital; you won't see "progress" referenced in our Declaration of Independence. Nor is "progress" taught to our children as one of America's national values. Liberty and equality are. America is a "nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." In Washington, D.C., those words "All Men Are Created Equal" are chiseled in marble. In New York City, we revere a Statue of Liberty. They are uncompromising. In a war of ideas against Islamic supremacism, Americans must defend these values, and Americans must defy those supremacists who would deny such values, and Americans must demonstrate to the world how much equality and liberty mean to each of us as individuals and as a nation.
4. A War of Ideas That Could Inspire the World
American history has shown that, however difficult, the American people will rally to a cause when it is shown to make sense in defending America's natural values of equality and liberty. The final years of the war against white supremacism and the widespread public discrediting of the white supremacist ideology should give us hope. Let us not forget that once there were parts of this same America where white supremacism affected where you worked, where you lived, what restaurants you were allowed to eat in, what schools you went to, what entrances you were allowed to use, even where you were allowed to sit on the bus. I am not saying that America is perfect, or that the hate behind white supremacism is forever gone from all hearts and minds. But we all know today that white supremacism is widely discredited, widely condemned, unacceptable to our society, and unacceptable to our government and to our legal system. The war on white supremacism in America was a huge, massive accomplishment for equality and liberty, both in America and as an example to the world.
There is no question that Islamic supremacism is a greater challenge and a global challenge. The many millions of white supremacists that America's ideological war challenged pale compared to the large scale of Islamic supremacists in the world. In Pakistan alone, seventy five percent of the Pakistan public have been consistently polled that they view it as important for the Pakistani government to implement "strict Sharia law." We have a long, long war of ideas ahead of us, so we better get started now.
Perhaps in the near-future, the only nation that America will be able to significantly influence in fighting Islamic supremacism will be the United States of America. While fighting Islamic supremacism in America may be just a start, it also could prove to be an inspiration for parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. But we need to start the war of ideas. America can't afford to sit on the sidelines any longer.
America's war on Islamic supremacism could someday be the example by which all free people in the world defy those who would impose Islamic supremacism on the world. Someday your children and your children's children could say, this was when America stood up against Islamic supremacism. This was when America believed in itself more than it feared the threats of those who would destroy it. This was when America chose to have the courage of its convictions and to be an example of hope to the world.
This was when America proved once again that it was "the home of the brave."
Fear No Evil.
Written by Jeffrey Imm, Oct 22, 2008