Yesterday at 9 a.m., I delivered a speech and participated in a panel discussion in Aspen, Colorado — and was back in my Manhattan office by 2 p.m. How did I do it? I spoke via satellite — the easiest flight in the world. There I sat, in the very comfortable, midtown offices of Stratosphere Multimedia, no cabin pressure, taking a very streamlined 21st century ride.
Very Star-Trek, but also very familiar. I’ve been doing satellite tours since 1987. I’ve just been told that even Oprah has been interviewing guests via Skype. Soon enough, we’ll all be able to appear Harry Potter-style, as talking paintings, talking newspaper headlines, or transported across the centuries: time travelers on a mission — or simply on a visit to old friends or to our descendants.
The conference, “Aspen Counterpoint,” an independent project, was founded by three residents of the Aspen Valley: Alan Altman, Elaine Sandler, and Judith King. These brave and determined souls wanted to present material and a “diversity of perspectives” that are rarely heard in a single forum or in Aspen. “2010 Summer Symposium: Conscience and Conflict” covered the “Persecution of Women, Perpetuation of Slavery, International Complacency, Militant Islamist Strategies, and Misrepresentation of Israeli-Palestinian Conflicts.”
It actually covered more, much more. May there be another such conference — may there be many more such conferences. Altman, Sandler, and King should take their organizing skills on the road. Having met Elaine Sandler in person, I am sure that she alone could run a small country quite efficiently!
The other speakers were Ambassador John Bolton, currently of the American Enterprise Institute; Caroline Glick, deputy editor of the Jerusalem Post and senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy; Charles Jacobs, co-founder of Boston’s CAMERA, The David Project, and The American Anti-Slavery Group; Khaled Abu Toameh, the West Bank and Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post; and R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA during the Clinton administration, former under secretary of the Navy, and founding member of the Set America Free Coalition, dedicated to freeing American from oil dependence.
Quite a lineup, yes? Videos will be made available for educational purpose; write to [email protected].
I was privileged to start off the morning panel, “Human Rights and Petro Dollars,” with Charles Jacobs and Jim Woolsey.
I spoke about the failure of Western intellectuals to understand and oppose Islamism, terrorism, and barbarism. I specifically spoke about Islamic gender and religious apartheid. (I will publish a part of my lecture separately).
Charles Jacobs spoke about his many important human rights campaigns, the latest of which is his ongoing fight to document and expose the 16 million dollar mega mosque known as the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center and its ties to radical Islam (hatred of infidels, military jihad, terrorism). For doing so, Jacobs has been sued by Islamists and attacked by liberal Jewish rabbis who ride the interfaith “illusion” train, whose wheels are greased with many kinds of rewards.
Jacobs asked: “Why are Western progressives paralyzed by crimes committed by Muslims?” He described his work in trying to free slaves in the Sudan and how the “human rights community did not help us.” Jacobs was unable to persuade the Clinton and Bush administrations to stop the genocide of two million black African Muslims, Christians, and Animists by ethnic Arab Muslims. He said: “It was a real case of we shall undercome.” He suggested that we google Amnesty International on their work in Sudan — and to then compare what little we find to Amnesty’s close, obsessive, scrutiny of alleged Israeli human rights abuses.
Jacobs talked about the second or third generation of Muslims in America who want to “lead lives in separatist enclaves,” who believe that “returning to their roots” is the same as “becoming radicalized.” These young Muslims honestly believe that Islam preceded Judaism and Christianity. Much proselytizing has been done in African-American neighborhoods and in jails. He reminded us that the problem is not just in Boston, that there are similarly Saudi-funded Wahhabi-style or Muslim Brotherhood-style mosques all over America (yes, at Ground Zero in Manhattan too), that the mainstream media do not write about them — and when they do, they present them as exercises in Muslim moderation.
This is precisely what drives true moderate Muslims — the kind who appear in Zeyno Baran’s excellent anthology The Other Muslims: Moderate and Secular.
Jacobs stressed that government officials have been supporting the Islamic Center in Boston — despite the fact that one of its founders, Abdurahman Alamoudi, was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. True, he was also a chief fundraiser for both Clinton and Bush — but he was also a money runner for al-Qaeda and an ally of Hamas and Hezbollah; Alamoudi is currently serving 23 years in prison.
According to Jacobs, other founders are not much better. In Arabic they say, “Kill the Jews, kill the infidels”; in English, they are soft-spoken, and if challenged, they claim they have been misunderstood or mistranslated. They are smart and they are cunning. According to Jacobs, such radical Muslims befriend the right kind of liberal Jews who function for them as the “key to each city.” And, if and when that fails, they sue. They sue the media so that they cannot discuss the lawsuit while it is still ongoing, and they sue those who dare expose what they are doing.
Jacobs said that the lawsuit against him launched by the Islamic Society of Boston has cost $900,000 and that the great Steve Emerson’s legal costs in this same matter have totaled $700,000. This tactic is known to one and all as “lawfare.”
Jacobs noted that all the brave individuals and organizations who are really taking this on are “alone and small.” Governments are not funding this work, nor are large foundations.
Finally, Jacobs shares my distress about American self-hatred. Jacobs noted: “We freed our slaves. We saved Europe from communism and Nazism. We have legally empowered women and gays. We are not so bad.”
Or, as I’ve said many times: We are not the worst nation on earth but rather among the best. As is Israel. Far from perfect, imperfect, mortal. And yet … while I am no cultural relativist, in this matter I do counsel some relativism. Compared to Saudi Arabia, or to any other tyranny, we are a bastion of law and democracy.
Jim Woolsey paced — charmingly, folksily. He began with a funny tale. While he was the head of the CIA, he and his wife had to fly separately, even to private events. And he was always accompanied by two large, strong, armed secret service agents. Once, on a flight, the stewardess came over and said: “I have never seen such a polite, well-behaved … prisoner on board before.” He then explained that America and the West are funding our own destruction by our reliance on foreign oil — for that matter, on any oil. He views oil as a carcinogen, and as dangerous to the planet as well. (Think Exxon Valdez oil spill; think BP in the Gulf right now). He further explained that boycotting Saudi oil will prove ineffective since other nations will move in as buyers. If we do not act on alternative energy plans (electricity, the electric car, the Prius, nuclear energy, etc.), “half the world wealth will soon be in Saudi hands.”
In short, Woolsey views “American dependence on foreign oil as a national security issue.”
Oh, I could not agree with him more. But, as both Charles and I pointed out, the war of ideas is hot upon us right now and if we do not make sure that people are being given the real news and analyses now — before it is too late — then 20-30 years from now, radical Islamists will be driving electric cars in all the cities of America.
It was my pleasure and privilege to serve with these men on this panel. I only wish I could have been there in person and heard the other speakers as well.