Friday, April 10, 2009

Noninterventionists Need Not Apply

March 24, 2009

(Michael F. Scheuer is a former CIA employee. In his 22-year career, he served as the Chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station (aka "Alec Station"), from 1996 to 1999, the Osama bin Laden tracking unit at the Counterterrorist Center. He then worked again as Special Advisor to the Chief of the bin Laden unit from September 2001 to November 2004.)

by Michael Scheuer

In a recent issue of Newsweek, the journal's inexplicably renowned Muslim-world and foreign-policy expert Fareed Zakaria had a cover story called "Learning to Live With Radical Islam." To my surprise, I received a call from Newsweek editor Will Tacy, who said that the journal was canvassing other "experts" for a 700-word comment on Zakaria's article and asked if I would write a contribution. I agreed, wrote an article of the requisite length, and submitted the piece before the deadline. Mr. Tacy acknowledged receiving the commentary, but I have never heard from him again – despite sending several notes and leaving voice-mail – and the piece was not printed.

Why? Well there is always the chance that my comment stunk. But if that was the case, it was no worse than the article on which it commented. No, I think the reason for Mr. Tacy's silence is that my piece told Newsweek's readers that Mr. Zakaria: (a) had been a supporter of the neocons and the invasion of Iraq; (b) was desperately seeking Democratic friends with embarrassingly sycophantic praise for the sophisticated genius of President Obama; (c) had delineated an absolute refusal to take our Islamist enemies seriously; and (d) could not rally enough brain cells to even imagine that prolonged U.S. intervention in the Muslim world had caused and is prolonging the conflict with al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies.

I suspect the last item, on the mortal perils of interventionism, probably clinched my exclusion from the published comments on Mr. Zakaria's article. (NB: Similarly, last May the New Republic asked me about al-Qaeda's future. I wrote that if U.S. intervention continued, then al-Qaeda and its allies would win. The journal rejected the piece, instead printing an "al-Qaeda-is-imploding" fantasy that found no fault with the interventionist status quo.) Overall, Mr. Zakaria; Newsweek; the Obama administration; the Republicans; other journals, such as the Weekly Standard, National Review, and the Wall Street Journal; and most mainstream and cable media outlets are of one mind: U.S. interventionism must be continued, and, through it, secular democracy must be imposed on unlimited numbers of our little brown brothers by either bayonets or a U.S. taxpayer-funded overseas New Deal. Sadly for Americans, this means more intervention; higher taxes; more unconstitutional wars with Muslims; and the further erosion of U.S. national security.

My comment on Mr. Zakaria's recent article follows.

Learning to Increase America's Vulnerability, With Fareed Zakaria

In "Learning to Live With Radical Islam," Fareed Zakaria extends his range of misperceptions about the Islamic world. Once a champion of President Bush's spreading-democracy mania and the invasion of Iraq, he revises his tune to please the less martial – but still feckless – foreign-policy approach of President Obama. The revision is also embarrassing, as we find Mr. Zakaria searching for buddies in Democratic Washington by urging the drafting of "a more sophisticated strategy" by Obama, for whom, he says with exquisite sycophancy, such a task "should come naturally."

Stripping the flattery of Obama and the requisite damning of old Republican friends, Mr. Zakaria's words show no concern for America's defense. Speaking in an anti-Muslim voice worthy of a viceroy of British India, Mr. Zakaria concludes, "The truth is that all Islamists, violent or not, lack answers to the problems of the modern world. They do not have a world view that can satisfy the aspirations of modern men and women."

Take that, you darned medieval, superstitious Muslims. You folks may think Islam is a legitimate "world view," one that provides divine guidance for all aspects of life – from manners and morals to personal relationships to helping the poor to governing to war – but you would be dead wrong. Mr. Zakaria and Westerners know better. Their Western "world view" is superior to any religion-based world view – which by definition has "no answers" for the worldly wise – and so, can't you Muslims see, Islam cannot satisfy the aspirations of people who are truly modern and respectable.

Mr. Zakaria's distaste for Islam stems, it seems, from a common Western malady, an inability to differentiate between modernization and Westernization. Most Muslims – Islamists and others – appear to be eager, innovative users of modernity's tools, whether armaments, communications, consumer goods, or information technology. The stunningly adept use of communications and information technology by the Afghan Taliban since 2001 makes this point. What overwhelming numbers of Muslims seem to oppose is Westernization, that grinning, giddy tolerance for nearly everything Allah advises against, such as the brothels, bars, and pornography brought to Kabul by Western NGOs and NATO forces. At base, for Mr. Zakaria, if Muslims are not willing to go on a whoring, whiskey-soaked bender they cannot aspire to modernity, and until they are so willing: "We [the U.S. and the West] should mount a spirited defense of our views and values. We should pursue aggressively policies that will make these values succeed." In other words, onward you soldiers of secular imperialism, teach them heathen Muslims to hate their religion and become good Westerners.

Besides finding no value in the world view of Islamists or other Muslim faithful, Mr. Zakaria finds no fault in U.S. policy in the Muslim world. He leaves readers believing Islamists have no rational basis for attacking America. On this point, Mr. Zakaria unwittingly shows the foreign-policy continuity from Bush to Obama, which amounts to: Islamists and other Muslims attack us because they hate how Americans live and think, and not for what Washington does in the Muslim world. Here Mr. Zakaria is at his most obtuse and – with his praise for such "thinkers" (?) as Gerecht, Gerges, Kilcullen, etc. – at his most use to bin Laden and other Islamists as what the Cold War-era called a "useful idiot." (emphasis added)

America's vulnerability to Islamist militancy has steadily risen since 2001, because Republican and Democratic leaders and their academic and media acolytes have lied to Americans about their enemies' motivation. We are at war not because of our secularism and gender equality, but because we try to force those values on Muslims at bayonet-point, while wholeheartedly supporting those who Muslims see as Islam's worst enemies: Israel and such Arab tyrannies as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

It is commonsense to conclude we cannot learn to live with radical Islam until we understand it and see the stark decision at hand: either amend foreign policies to make them consonant with U.S. interests or face endless wars. Sadly, Mr. Zakaria's advice brings Americans no closer to that understanding. It viciously denigrates the "world view" of Muslim believers and leaves America vulnerable to a foe sure of why he is fighting and confident that U.S. leaders have no clue why America is losing.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

TSA detains official from Ron Paul group

April 6, 2009
Washington Times

The Transportation Security Administration is investigating the detention and harassment of a Ron Paul organization official by airport screeners, an incident that was caught on tape at a St. Louis airport.

Steve Bierfeldt, director of development for Campaign for Liberty, was selected for additional screening after officials spotted a metal box in his luggage that contained a large amount of cash and checks made out to the campaign.

Mr. Bierfeldt was attending his organization's regional conference in St. Louis and said he was keenly aware, as the situation unfolded March 29, of a controversial report issued to Missouri law enforcement officials intended to identify members of radical militia members.

"Militia members most commonly associate with third-party political groups," said the report, issued Feb. 20 by the Missouri Information Analysis Center. "It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitution Party, Campaign for Liberty or Libertarian material. These members are usually supporters of former presidential candidates Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr."

Mr. Bierfeldt was carrying Campaign for Liberty bumper stickers and other campaign literature, and was interrogated by TSA screeners and airport police at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for nearly a half-hour before being allowed on his flight to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The money he was carrying, more than $4,700, was in the form of cash and checks received from ticket sales, bumper stickers, books and other conference-related items.

Mr. Bierfeldt recorded the event on his iPhone, and provided a copy to The Washington Times for review. (Click here to listen to the audio)

On the tape, Mr. Bierfeldt is asked repeatedly where he works, where he obtained the money and why he was in St. Louis.

In each instance, Mr. Bierfeldt asked whether he was required by law to answer the questions.

"You want to play smartass, and I'm not going to play your f--ing game," the TSA official said.

Mr. Bierfeldt continued to refuse to answer, asking whether he was compelled by law to do so. The officers accused him of "doublespeak" and "acting like a child."

"Are you from this planet?" one officer asked.

The officers threatened to handcuff him and turn him over to the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration for questioning.

"You're going to have to prove why you have so much money to the DEA," a second unidentified officer said.

"We're going to help you understand [the law]," the TSA official said.

As he was being led away by the officers questioning him in the recording, another unidentified officer approached the group and asked Mr. Bierfeldt whether he worked for Mr. Paul and whether the money was campaign contributions.

Mr. Bierfeldt responded, "Yes," and was told by that officer that he was "free to go."

But one of the detaining officers said he was "not all that ready to let him walk" back onto the concourse, and held him for another five minutes.

"I was not refusing to answer the questions. I was only saying, as per the law, 'Am I legally required to answer the questions?'" Mr. Bierfeldt later said in an interview with The Times.

"We are becoming far too eager to give away our liberties in the face of false security. We want to make our plane and we don't want a five-minute hassle so we are eager to give up our freedom, and that is unfortunate," Mr. Bierfeldt said.

"I don't believe I was legally required to tell them. Carrying cash is not a crime," Mr. Bierfeldt said. "It is a dangerous precedent if the government can order you to tell them where you get your money, and no law requires them to know where I work or where I spend my free time and where I go on vacation."

Asked whether his employment with Mr. Paul's committee prompted more scrutiny, Mr. Bierfeldt said: "I don't know, but it may not have helped that they were aware of where I worked.

"I was obviously with the campaign and I was aware of that report. I didn't want to tell them off the bat that I worked for the campaign and Ron Paul, because the report said we were potential members of the militia, and that's why I asked what my rights were," Mr. Bierfeldt said.

Mr. Paul, a U.S. House member and honorary chairman of the grass-roots lobbying organization, said he was "rather shocked" by the incident.

"This sort of encounter is a sign of bad things to come," said the Texas Republican and 2008 presidential-primary contender.

"People need to know their rights, and law enforcement officers, even if their intentions are noble, should never be allowed to bully and detain law-abiding citizens," Mr. Paul said. "Steve´s experience is a prime example of how our liberties are in real peril and that we need to wake up to what's going on in our country."

The TSA issued a statement Friday confirming that the metal box triggered the "need for additional screening," but said the behavior of the screening officer was inappropriate.

"Because the box contained a number of items including a large amount of cash, all of which needed to be removed to be properly screened, it was deemed more appropriate to continue the screening process in a private area," the statement said.

"The tone and language used by the TSA employee was inappropriate. TSA holds its employees to the highest professional standards. TSA will continue to investigate this matter and take appropriate action," the statement said.

The Homeland Security agency further explained that carrying large amounts of cash through airport checkpoints "may be investigated by law enforcement authorities if criminal activity is suspected."

"As a general rule, passengers are required to cooperate with the screening process. Cooperation may involve answering questions about their property, including why they are carrying a large sum of cash. A passenger who refuses to answer questions may be referred to appropriate authorities for further inquiry," the TSA said.

Mr. Bierfeldt made his flight on time and said he had not decided whether to file a formal complaint against the officers or the agency.

"Everyone in these types of situations needs to stand up for their rights," said Mr. Bierfeldt, whose organization describes itself as supporting constitutional ideals and a free-market society.

The Campaign for Liberty already had objected to Missouri's militia report. On March 24, Missouri Department of Public Safety Director John Britt sent a letter to all the named candidates acknowledging the state had made a mistake.

"I have ordered that the offending report be edited so as to excise all reference to Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin and to any third-party political organizations," Mr. Britt said. "Additionally, you may rest assured that the report is not posted on any website maintained by the State of Missouri."

"The Missouri Department of Public Safety regrets any inconvenience or issues caused inadvertently by the unnecessary inclusion of certain components by MIAC in its militia report," Mr. Britt said.