To cut to the chase, a country that was serious about its national security would never put John Brennan in charge of its premier intelligence service.
Of course, it is by no means clear that the United States is any longer a serious country in this regard. Serious countries do not fund, arm and “partner with” hostile regimes. They do not recruit enemy sympathizers to fill key governmental policy positions. They do not erect barriers impeding their intelligence services from understanding an enemy’s threat doctrine – in conscious indifference to Sun Tzu’s maxim that defending oneself requires knowing one’s enemies. All of these malfeasances have become staples of Obama policy, under the guidance of Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism guru.
Still, the installation of a Beltway operator whose métier is misinformation as director of central intelligence would be an epic mismatch of man and mission. It would expand unseriousness to new frontiers of self-inflicted peril.
The reason is as elementary as it gets: The purpose of intelligence is to see what your enemy is trying to hide, to grasp how your enemy thinks, and how he cleverly camouflages what he thinks. That, to be certain, is the only security against stealthy foes who specialize in sabotage, in exploiting the liberties that make free societies as vulnerable as they are worth defending.
Mr. Brennan, to the contrary, is the incarnation of willful blindness. His tenure as Obama’s top national security advisor has been about helping our enemies throw sand in our eyes and thus enabling the sabotage.
As I detail in The Grand Jihad, which recounts the Muslim Brotherhood’s history, ideology, and self-proclaimed “civilization jihad” against the West, sabotage is the Brotherhood’s defining practice. Indeed, “sabotage” is the word the Brothers themselves use to describe their work. It appears in an internal memorandum, which elaborates that the organization sees its mission in the United States as “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.” Besides that long-term goal, the Brotherhood’s network of American affiliates have pursued the more immediate aim of materially supporting Hamas, a formally designated terrorist organization to which the provision of material support is a felony under federal law.
None of that is new. It was not merely well known but had been proved in court by the Justice Department a year before Obama took office. I refer to the Justice Department’s 2008 Hamas financing prosecution, the Holy Land Foundation case. Yet, counterterrorism czar Brennan remains undeterred, a driving force of the Obama administration’s “Islamic outreach” – a campaign to give Islamist organizations influence over U.S. policy. That several of those organizations were proved in the HLF case to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s American network is clearly of no moment.
Two such organizations are the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). They were among a slew of Islamist groups who wrote to Brennan in October 2011 to demand a purge of information about Islamist ideology that was being used to train U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agents. Much of that information was developed in federal investigations that have led to the convictions of violent jihadists. Nevertheless, the Obama administration has slavishly complied (see, e.g., here and here).
Understand: CAIR and ISNA, though never indicted, were proved to be conspirators in the Brotherhood’s Holy Land Foundation scheme to promote and finance Hamas. In fact, the FBI formally cut ties with CAIR as a result of the HLF case (although why they had ties with CAIR in the first place remains baffling). The training materials the Islamist groups insisted be removed include documentation of the fact that terrorism committed by Muslims is driven by an ideology rooted in Islamic scripture.
That this irrefutable fact makes us uncomfortable renders it no less a fact. Maybe the State Department and the White House press office have the luxury of trading in convenient fictions in order to reduce international tensions. Not intelligence agencies. The point of intelligence – a bedrock of national security – is to see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.
Here is how it is: Islamic supremacism, the sharia-based ideology of Islamists, is an interpretation of Muslim doctrine that is entirely mainstream among the world’s Muslims. That is why Islamists are winning elections in the Middle East even as they are found aligning with violent jihadists. Islamic supremacism is, in fact, widely promoted by the Brotherhood, and by such tentacles of its American network as CAIR and ISNA, when they are not otherwise deceptively disavowing its existence.
This Islamist ideology is incorrigibly anti-Western and anti-Semitic. It is deeply hostile to principles of equality and individual liberty (free speech, freedom of conscience, privacy, economic freedom, etc.) that undergird our Constitution, the American conception of civil rights, and the West’s conception of human rights. Understand Islamist ideology and you will readily understand the ferocity of Islamic resistance to American efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East – not merely jihadist resistance but broad Islamic resistance.
Yet, in a propaganda campaign reminiscent of those waged by the Nazis and the Soviets, Islamists and their fellow travelers (Brennan-types who might be thought of as “anti-anti-Islamists”) purport to be champions of human rights. When it suits them, they even feign reverence for individual liberties (particularly when it comes to the rights of Muslim in America … but don’t you dare ask them how non-Muslims fare in, say, Saudi Arabia).
The counter to such a propaganda campaign is a job for intelligence agencies. The point of having a sprawling intelligence community on which American taxpayers annually lavish $55 billion – far more than the vast majority of countries spend on national defense – is precisely to see through the deceptions of those who mean us harm, to perceive the threats against us for what they are. That the competent performance of this essential function may be fraught with political complications is supposed to be a challenge for our politicians, not our intelligence agents. The latter’s mission of unearthing hidden and often excruciating truths is hard enough.
Brennan’s agenda is the antithesis of the intelligence mission. His goal has been to portray our enemies as a small, unthreatening fringe of charlatan “violent extremists,” who kill wantonly and are unconnected to any “legitimate” Islam. Thus, he maintains for example that the only “legitimate” interpretation of the “tenet of Islam” known as jihad is: a “holy struggle … to purify oneself or one’s community.”
Even taken at face value, Brennan’s assertion is absurd. There is between Islam and the West no common understanding of the good, and thus no consensus about “purity.” In Islam, to “purify” something means to make it more compliant with sharia, Islam’s legal code and societal framework. Sharia is anti-freedom and anti-equality, so to purify oneself in an Islamic sense would necessarily mean something very different from what we in the West would think of as struggling to become a better person.
But there is an even more fundamental reason not to take Brennan’s remarks at face value: they run afoul of what mainstream Islam itself says about jihad. Have a look at Reliance of the Traveller, the popular sharia manual (it is available on Amazon). It is quite straightforward on the matter: “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims.” Reliance, you should know, has been expressly endorsed by al-Azhar University in Egypt (Islam’s center of learning since the tenth century) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (the Brotherhood’s America-based Islamist think-tank). It is a lot more authoritative than John Brennan’s wishful meanderings. Maybe the president actually thinks Brennan knows more about Islam than do these scholars who have spent their lives steeped in Islamic doctrine and jurisprudence. I have my doubts … and, judging from the profound influence of these scholars, so do many millions of Muslims.
In Brennan’s world we’re to believe that holy war is not much different from the struggle to remember to brush after every meal. In Brennan’s world, there is also no need to fret over anti-American terrorists who return to the jihad with alarming regularity once they are released from Guantanamo Bay. After all, Brennan observes, common criminals have high recidivism rates, too. Mass-murderers, pick-pockets … as they say in the administration, “What difference does it make?”
And then there’s the skill of offending our friends while enabling our enemies. Brennan refers to Jerusalem, the Israeli capital, as “al-Quds.” That is the name used by Islamists who reject the Jewish state’s right to exist, who claim Jerusalem and the rest of Israel as their own. In fact, as Brennan undoubtedly knows, it was Ayatollah Khomeini who denominated Iran’s annual ritual of anti-Israeli protest as “al-Quds Day.” Moreover, the Islamic Republic, which has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the map, calls its most lethal terrorist operatives the “al-Quds” forces.
Brennan’s sense of outrage, unnoticeable in response to slights against a faithful U.S. ally, is instead reserved for the “ignorant feelings” of Americans riled by jihadist attacks against our country. For Brennan, Americans’ anger at Islamists, our perception that the ideology that breeds terrorists is just as much a problem as the terrorists themselves, is “Islamophobia” – a smear cleverly concocted by Islamists to deflect examination. Brennan claims to have seen Islamophobia rear its racist head in the public reaction to the Fort Hood attack – the worst jihadist mass-murder in America since 9/11, but one the Obama administration prefers to think of as “workplace violence.”
Brennan claims that Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese terror militia, is a “very interesting organization,” whose “moderate elements” have evolved it from “purely a terrorist organization” into a political party whose members now serve in the Lebanese government. This, again, is rose-tinted nonsense, bespeaking breathtaking ignorance about the history and operations of jihadists who, until 9/11, had killed more Americans than any other terror network. Hezbollah has never been “purely a terrorist organization.” Like the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Brennan-influenced Obama administration similarly sees as “moderate” (even “largely secular”), Hezbollah has always seen terrorism as one item in a varied menu. For three decades, it has also specialized in media campaigns, social welfare work, lawfare, infiltration of academe, and political activism. Its objective – again, like the Brotherhood’s – is to advance the Islamic revolution at the expense of non-Muslims by any method that shows promise under the circumstances.
Hezbollah is part of the Islamist vanguard waging a global campaign against liberty. But with their Brennan blinders on, the Obama administration chooses not to see it. They see “moderates” committed to participating in a “political process.” This same thinking has led the administration to issue a visa to an admitted member of the Blind Sheikh’s terrorist organization (the Islamic Group) so he could come to the White House with other newly minted Egyptian “parliamentarians” to discuss U.S. policy in the Middle East. This mindset also explains why the administration negotiates with the Taliban, just as it negotiated with the terrorists who murdered American troops in Karbala – ultimately releasing the ringleader, Ali Mussa Daqduq.
There may be a place in government, even in the intelligence community, for discrediting our enemies – for conducting operations that highlight their excesses and making them appear illegitimate in the eyes of those whose allegiance they seek to win. There is no place, however, for deceiving the American people by politicizing intelligence. That Brennan specialty, an exhaustive effort to miniaturize the threats against our nation and appease the president’s Islamist allies, is the antithesis of what we have a CIA for.
To be sure, I have no illusions that Senate Republicans will do the right thing by the country and block Brennan’s nomination to run the CIA. This is not Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party. That was a party that looked at America’s enemies and said, “We win, you lose”; a party that was unafraid to wage ideological battle against enemy ideologies, regardless of the inevitable caterwauling of the enemies’ sympathizers. Today’s very different Republicans vote to arm and fund the Muslim Brotherhood; they endorse sharia constitutions as “democracy”; and they get exercised not over the infiltration of pro-Islamists in our government but over the temerity of a bare handful of conservatives to raise concerns about that infiltration.
Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing last week only bolstered concerns that he is utterly unfit to serve as secretary of defense. Yet, some Republicans have announced that they will vote for him anyway, and some others who purport to oppose him have signaled that they have no intention of mounting a filibuster, the only procedure that could derail him. Consequently, they’ve ensured that he will be confirmed. So let’s not kid ourselves: Senate Republicans who will let Hagel take control of the Defense Department, and who just joined Democrats in a 94-3 landslide confirmation of John Kerry – a devotee of Obama’s Muslim Brotherhood empowerment strategy – are not going to put up a fight over Brennan.
But that will not alter reality any more than Brennan’s whitewashed Islam alters the reality of Islamic supremacism. The fact will remain: If intelligence is to be politicized so that we let our guard down, then the United States would be better off with no CIA than with a CIA headed by John Brennan.
Related: “Why Chuck Hagel Is So Frightening: He’s Typical,” Barry Rubin writes.