As far as the White House is concerned, Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s top reporter, is President Barack Obama’s unofficial mouthpiece.
This was one of the many things we learned from The New York Times in David Samuels’s profile of Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.
In the course of explaining how Rhodes was able to sell Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, despite the fact that it cleared Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal while giving the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism more than a hundred billion dollars, Samuels reported that “handpicked Beltway insiders like Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic… helped retail the administration’s narrative.”
Given his White House-assigned role, Goldberg’s explanation of Obama’s refusal to discuss radical Islam is worthwhile reading. It reflects what Obama wants the public to believe about his position.
On Wednesday Goldberg wrote that in Obama’s view, discussing radical Islam is counterproductive because it harms the moderates who need to stand up to the radicals.
“Obama,” he wrote, “believes that [a] clash is taking place [not between Western and Muslim civilization but] within a single civilization, and that Americans are sometimes collateral damage in this fight between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists.”
Pointing out that there are Muslim fundamentalists, Obama has argued to Goldberg, will only strengthen them against the modernizers.
Over the past week, prominent conservative commentators have agreed with Obama’s position.
Eli Lake from Bloomberg and Prof. John Yoo writing in National Review, among others, criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for speaking openly radical Islam. Like Goldberg, they argued that Trump’s outspokenness alienates moderate Muslims.
But what moderate Muslims is Obama trying to help?
Consider his treatment of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Sisi is without a doubt, the most outspoken and powerful advocate of a moderate reformation of Islam, and of Islamic rejection of jihad, alive today.
Sisi has staked his power and his life on his war to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State and jihadist Islam in general.
Sisi speaks openly about the danger of jihadist Islam. In his historic speech before the leading Sunni clerics at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University on January 1, 2015, Sisi challenged the clerics to reform Islam.
Among other things he said, “I address the religious clerics. We have to think hard about what we are facing…. It is inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire Islamic nation to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.
Impossible! “That thinking – I am not saying ‘religion,’ but ‘thinking’ – that corpus of texts and ideas that we have held sacred over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world!…
“Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants – that is 7 billion – so that they themselves may live? Impossible!
“I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You imams are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move…because this Islamic nation is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost – and it is being lost by our own hands.”
Certainly since September 11, 2001, no Muslim leader has issues a clearer call for moderation in Islam than Sisi did in that speech. And he has continued to speak in the manner ever since.
No other Muslim leader of note has put everything on the line as Sisi has to defeat the forces of jihad both on the field and in the mosques.
Moreover, Sisi has put his anti-jihadist belief into action by expanding security cooperation between Egypt and Israel and by bringing the Gulf states into his undeclared alliance with the Jewish state.
He has also acted to end the demonization of Israel in the Egyptian media.
Obviously, supporting Sisi is a no-brainer for a leader who insists that his goal is to empower moderate Muslims. And yet, far from being Sisi’s greatest supporter, Obama opposes him.
Since Sisi led the Egyptian military in overthrowing the Obama-backed Muslim Brotherhood regime as it was poised to transform Egypt into a jihadist terrorist state, Obama has worked to undermine him.
Obama has denied Sisi weapons critical to his fight with ISIS in Sinai. He has repeatedly and consistently chastised Sisi for human rights abuses against radical Islamists who, if permitted to return to power, would trounce the very notion of human rights while endangering the US’s key interests in Middle East.
Then there is Iran.
If Obama fears radical Islam, as Goldberg insists that he does, why did he turn his back on the Green Revolution in 2009? Why did he betray the millions of Iranians who rose up against their Islamist leaders in the hopes of installing a democratic order in Iran where women’s rights, and minority rights are respected? Why did he instead side with the radical, jihadist, terrorism-supporting, nuclear weapons-developing and -proliferating ayatollahs? And why has Obama striven to reach an accommodation with the Iranian regime despite its continued dedication to the destruction of the US?
Goldberg’s claim that Obama is interested in empowering Muslim moderates in their fight against radicals doesn’t pass the laugh test.
Obama’s actual schemes for relating to – as opposed to acknowledging, fighting or defeating – the forces of jihad involve empowering those forces at the expense of the moderates who oppose them.
Yes, there are exceptions to this rule – like Obama’s belated assistance to the Kurds in Syria and Iraq. But that doesn’t mean that empowering Islamic jihadists at the expense of moderate Muslims is not Obama’s overarching strategy.
In the case of the Kurds, Obama only agreed to help them after spending years training Syrian opposition forces aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. It was only after nearly all of those forces cut contact with their American trainers and popped up in al-Qaida-aligned militias that Obama began actively supporting the Kurds.
Then there is his behavior toward American jihadists.
Almost every major jihadist attack on US soil since Obama took office has been carried out by US citizens. But Obama has not countered the threat they pose by embracing American Muslims who reject jihad.
To the contrary, Obama has spent the past seven- and-a-half years empowering radical Muslims and Islamic groups like the pro-Hamas terrorism apologists from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
This week The Daily Caller reported that MPAC President Salam al-Marayati, is serving as an adviser to the US Department of Homeland Security.
Marayati accused Israel of responsibility for the September 11 attacks on the US, and has called on Muslims not to cooperate with federal counter-terrorism probes. According to the report, Marayati has visited the White House 11 times since 2009.
The Daily Caller also reported that a Syrian immigrant to the US was hired to serve as a member of Obama’s task for on “violent extremism” last year.
Laila Alawa, who joined the task force the day she received US citizenship, referred to the September 11 attacks as an event that “changed the world for good.”
According to the Daily Caller, her task force called for the administration to avoid using the terms “jihad” and “Shari’a” in discussing terrorism – as if Obama needed the tip.
So far from helping Muslim moderates, Obama’s actual policy is to help radical Muslims. In stark opposition to his talking points to Goldberg, since he entered office, Obama has worked to empower radical Muslims in the US and throughout the Middle East at the expense of moderates. Indeed, it is hard to think of an anti-jihad Muslim leader in the US or in the Middle East whom Obama has supported.
The victims in Orlando, San Bernadino, Garland, Amarillo, Boston and beyond are proof that Obama’s actual policies are not making America safer. The rise of ISIS and Iran makes clear that his actual policies are making the world more dangerous.
Maybe if his actual policies were what he claims they are, things might be different today. Maybe White House support for anti-jihadist Muslims combined with a purge of all mention of jihad and related terms from the federal lexicon would be the winning policy. But on its face, it is hard to see how forbidding federal employees from discussing jihadists in relevant terms makes sense.
How can enforcing ignorance of a problem help you to solve it? How does refusing to call out the Islamic extremists that Islamic moderates like the Green revolutionaries and Sisi risk their lives to fight weaken them? How does empowering jihad apologists from CAIR and MPAC help moderate, anti-jihad American Muslims who currently have no voice in Obama’s White House?
Eli Lake argued that it was by keeping mum on jihad that then-president George W. Bush and Gen. David Petraeus convinced Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq to join the US in fighting al-Qaida during the surge campaign in 2007-2008.
The same leaders now support ISIS.
A counter-argument to Lake’s is that Bush’s policy of playing down the jihadist doctrine of the likes of al-Qaida had nothing to do with the Sunni chieftains’ decision to side with the US forces.
Rather, they worked with the Americans first because the Americans paid them a lot of money to do so. And second, because they believed the Americans when they said that they would stay the course in Iraq.
They now side with ISIS because they don’t trust America, and would rather live under ISIS rule than under Iranian rule.
In other words, for them, the question wasn’t one of political niceties, but of financial gain and power assessments. And that remains the question that determines their actions today.
In the 15 years since September 11, first under Bush, and since 2009, to a more extreme degree under Obama, the US has refused to name the enemy that fights America with the expressed aim of destroying it.
Maybe, just maybe, this is one of the reasons that the Americans have also failed to truly help anti-jihadist – or moderate – Muslims. Maybe you can’t help one without calling out the other.