Archive for Steven Emerson

Who Commits Terrorism?

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2012 by loonwatch

 

Afghan VillagerA mourner cries over the bodies of Afghan civilians shot dead in their homes by a U.S. solider in Alkozai village of Panjwayi district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan on March 11, 2012. Photographer: Jangir/AFP/Getty Images

“Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.” ~ Peter Ustinov

Who Commits Terrorism?

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

If the Fox News promoters of racial profiling had been in charge of investigating the terror attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011, they might well have encountered blond, blue-eyed Anders Behring Breivik and his two smoking-hot guns only long enough to ask if he’d seen any suspicious-looking Muslims around.

After all, it has been a touchstone of the American Right, as well as right-wing Israelis, that Muslims are the source of virtually all terrorism and thus it makes little sense to focus attention on non-Muslims. A clean-cut Nordic sort like Breivik, who fancies himself part of a modern-day Knights Templar, is someone who would get a pass.

Or, as Israel’s UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman told a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2006, “While it may be true – and probably is – that not all Muslims are terrorists, it also happens to be true that nearly all terrorists are Muslim.” [Washington Post, March 7, 2006]

So, if you were tuned in to Fox News after the Norway attack, you would have seen smug-looking Fox talking heads recounting how this attack was surely an act of Islamic terrorism and even one exchange about the value of racial profiling to avoid wasting time on non-Muslims.

Yet, while the biases of Gillerman and Fox News represent a large chunk of the conventional wisdom, the reality is that terrorism is far from some special plague associated with Muslims. In fact, terrorism, including state terrorism, has been practiced far more extensively by non-Muslims and especially by Christian-dominated nations, both historically and in more modern times.

Terror tactics have long been in the tool kit of predominantly Christian armies and paramilitaries, including Breivik’s beloved Crusaders who slaughtered Muslims and Jews alike when Jerusalem was conquered in 1099.

Terror, such as torture and burning “heretics” alive, was a big part of the Roman Catholic Inquisition and the intra-Christian bloodletting in Europe in the middle of the last millennium. Terror played a big role, too, in genocides committed by Christian explorers against the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere and other unfortunate targets of colonialism.

More Crusading ‘Knights’

During the Jim Crow era in the American South, white Christians organized Ku Klux Klan chapters, which, like Breivik’s Templars, considered themselves Christian “knights” harkening back to the Crusades. The KKK inflicted terror on blacks, including lynching and bombings, to defend white supremacy.

In the 20th Century, there were countless examples of “red” and “white” terror, as Communists challenged the Capitalist power structure in Russia and other countries. Those violent clashes led to the rise of German Nazism which empowered “Aryans” to inflict terrifying slaughters to “defend” their racial purity from Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other “inferior” races.

To prevail in World War II, the Allies resorted to their own terror tactics, destroying entire cities from the air, such as Dresden in Germany and Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

After World War II, the United States created the CIA to conduct what amounted to a war of terror and counter-terror against revolutionary movements around the world. This “low-intensity conflict” sometimes spilled into massive slaughters, such as U.S. terror bombings that killed estimated millions across Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

The CIA also recruited, deployed and supported proxy terrorists throughout Latin America. A generation of South and Central American military officers was schooled in how to intimidate and repress political movements seeking social change.

A fierce slaughter occurred in Guatemala after the CIA ousted an elected government in 1954 through the use of violent propaganda that terrified the nation. The CIA’s coup was followed by military dictatorships that used state terror as a routine means of controlling the impoverished population.

The consequences of the U.S. strategy were described in a March 29, 1968, report written by the U.S. embassy’s deputy chief of mission, Viron Vaky.

“The official squads are guilty of atrocities. Interrogations are brutal, torture is used and bodies are mutilated,” Vaky wrote. “In the minds of many in Latin America, and, tragically, especially in the sensitive, articulate youth, we are believed to have condoned these tactics, if not actually encouraged them. Therefore our image is being tarnished and the credibility of our claims to want a better and more just world are increasingly placed in doubt.”

Vaky also noted the self-deceptions within the U.S. government that resulted from its complicity in state-sponsored terror.

“This leads to an aspect I personally find the most disturbing of all – that we have not been honest with ourselves,” Vaky said. “We have condoned counter-terror; we may even in effect have encouraged or blessed it. We have been so obsessed with the fear of insurgency that we have rationalized away our qualms and uneasiness.

“This is not only because we have concluded we cannot do anything about it, for we never really tried. Rather we suspected that maybe it is a good tactic, and that as long as Communists are being killed it is alright. Murder, torture and mutilation are alright if our side is doing it and the victims are Communists. After all hasn’t man been a savage from the beginning of time so let us not be too queasy about terror. I have literally heard these arguments from our people.”

Vaky’s lament, however, mostly fell on deaf ears. Before long, much of Latin America was governed by murderous regimes, including the Southern Cone dictatorships which went so far as to create an international assassination combine called Operation Condor to spread terror among political dissidents by killing critics as far away as Washington and European capitals.

The Bush Role

These terror operations reached a peak when George H.W. Bush was CIA director in 1976. In that year, U.S.-backed Cuban terrorists blew up a Cubana Airline plane killing 73 people, with the evidence pointing at Cuban anti-communists Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.

But those two right-wing Cubans continued to receive help and protection from the United States, including from the next generation of Bushes, Jeb and George W. (Thanks to the Bushes and their readiness to harbor these terrorists, Bosch lived out his golden years in Miami and Posada was spared extradition to Venezuela.)

Some of the worst examples of state terrorism occurred in Central America during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Reagan threw the support of the U.S. government behind the blood-soaked militaries of Guatemala and El Salvador (ironically, in the name of fighting terrorism). He also unleashed a terrorist organization, known as the Contras, against the leftist government in Nicaragua.

The butchery was shocking. Tens of thousands were slaughtered across Central America with the U.S.-backed Guatemalan army engaging in genocide against Indian populations of the highlands.

Though Reagan was the leading proponent in this application of terror in the 1980s, he is today one of the most honored U.S. presidents with scores of government facilities, including National Airport in Washington, named after him. (He is routinely cited by all sides in policy debates, including by President Barack Obama.)

Though Israel has been the victim of many horrible acts of Islamic [sic] terrorism, it also is not without guilt in the dark arts of terrorism. Militant Zionists employed terrorism as part of their campaign to establish Israel as a Jewish state in the 1940s. The terrorism included killings of British officials who were administering Palestine under an international mandate as well as Palestinians who were driven violently from their land so it could be claimed by Jewish settlers.

One of the most famous of those terrorist attacks was the 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem where British officials were staying. The attack, which killed 91 people including local residents, was carried out by the Irgun, a terrorist group run by Menachem Begin. Another veteran of this campaign of Zionist terrorism was Yitzhak Shamir.

And, these Jewish terrorists were not simply obscure figures in Israeli history. Begin later founded the Likud Party and rose to be Israel’s prime minister. Shamir was another Likud leader who was later elected prime minister. (Today, Likud remains Israel’s ruling party.)

In the early 1990s, as I was waiting to interview Shamir at his Tel Aviv office, I was approached by one of his young female assistants who was dressed in a gray and blue smock with a head covering in the traditional Hebrew style. As we were chatting, she smiled and said in a lilting voice, “Prime Minister Shamir, he was a terrorist, you know.” I responded with a chuckle, “yes, I’m aware of the prime minister’s biography.”

Defining Terrorism

The classic definition of “terrorism” is the use of violence against civilians to achieve a political goal. But the word ultimately has been transformed into a geopolitical insult. If “our” side is the target, it’s “terrorism,” even if it’s a case of local militants attacking an occupying military force. Yet, when “our” side is doing the killing, it is anything but “terrorism.”

Ramadan Present

So, for instance, when Palestinians trapped in the open-air prison called Gaza fire small missiles at nearby Israeli settlements, that is decried as “terrorism” because the missiles are indiscriminant. But in 1983, when the Reagan administration lobbed artillery shells from the USS New Jersey into Lebanese villages (in support of the Israeli military occupation of Lebanon), that was not “terrorism.”

Yet, when Lebanese militants responded to the U.S. shelling by driving a truck bomb into the U.S. Marine base at the Beirut airport, killing 241 American troops, that was widely deemed “terrorism” in the American news media, even though the victims weren’t civilians. They were military troops belonging to a country that had become a participant in a civil war.

As a Washington-based reporter for the Associated Press then, I questioned the seeming bias that the wire service was showing in its selective use of the word “terrorist” as applied to the bombing. Responding to my concerns, a senior AP executive quipped, “Terrorist is the word that follows Arab.”

Working journalists understood that it was an unwritten rule to apply the word “terrorism” liberally when the perpetrators were Muslims but avoid the term when describing actions by the United States or its allies. At such moments, the principle of objectivity went out the window.

Eventually, the American press corps developed such an engrained sense of this double standard that unrestrained moral outrage would pour forth when acts of “terrorism” were committed by U.S. enemies, but a studied silence – or a nuanced concern – would follow similar crimes by the United States or its allies.

So, when President George W. Bush carried out his “shock and awe” assault on Iraq, there was no suggestion that the destruction might be an act of terror – despite the fact that it was specifically designed to intimidate the Iraqis through acts of violence. Bush then followed up with a brutal invasion that has since resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths.

Many Muslims and others around the world denounced Bush’s Iraq invasion as “state terrorism,” but such a charge was considered far outside the mainstream debate in the United States. Instead, Iraqi insurgents were labeled “terrorists” when they attacked U.S. troops inside Iraq.

[This pattern continues to this day. On Monday, after Taliban fighters attacked Afghan government targets and offices related to NATO’s occupation of the country, the New York Times’ lead story characterized the offensive as “the most audacious coordinated terrorist attacks here in recent years.” However, the Times never describes raids by U.S. military forces, which have claimed large numbers of civilian lives, as “terrorism.”]

This double standard reinforces the notion that “only Muslims” commit acts of “terrorism,” because the Western news media, by practice, rarely applies the t-word to non-Muslims (and then only to groups opposed to the United States). By contrast, it is both easy and expected to attach the word to Muslim groups held in disfavor by the U.S. and Israeli governments, i.e. Hamas and Hezbollah.

Islamophobe Hearings

This double standard was on display in 2011 at Rep. Peter King’s Homeland Security Committee hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims. King refused to expand his investigation to include what some see as a rising threat from Christian Right “radicalization.”

Much like the Norway slaughter, a number of examples of domestic terrorism in the United States have emanated from the Right’s hostility toward multiculturalism and other policies of the modern American state.

Such cases of domestic terrorism have included the gunning down of presumed liberals at a Unitarian Church in Kentucky; violent attacks on gynecologists who perform abortions; the killing of a guard at Washington’s Holocaust Museum; and the shooting of a Democratic congresswoman and her constituents in Arizona.

From Breivik’s manifesto urging European Christians to rise up against Muslim immigrants and liberal politicians who tolerate multiculturalism, it is also clear that the Nordic/Christian mass murderer was inspired by anti-Muslim rhetoric that pervades the American Right. That bigotry has surfaced in ugly campaigns to prevent mosques from being built across the country or even an Islamic community center that was deemed to be too close to 9/11′s Ground Zero.

Rep. King’s hearings were inspired by the work of noted Islam-basher Steven Emerson, whose Investigative Project on Terrorism has sought to link the locations of mosques to the incidence of terrorism cases. Emerson, who has close ties to Israel’s Likud and American neocons, also was a key figure in the campaign to block the Islamic community center near Ground Zero.

In 2010, Emerson went on right-wing activist Bill Bennett’s national radio show and insisted that Islamic cleric Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leading force behind the community center, would likely not “survive” Emerson’s disclosure of supposedly radical comments that Rauf made a half decade earlier.

Emerson said, “We have found audiotapes of Imam Rauf defending Wahhabism, the puritanical version of Islam that governs Saudi Arabia; we have found him calling for the elimination of the state of Israel by claiming he wants a one-nation state meaning no more Jewish state; we found him defending bin Laden violence.”

However, when Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism released its evidence several days later, it fell far short of Emerson’s lurid descriptions. Rauf actually made points that are shared by many mainstream analysts – and none of the excerpted comments involved “defending Wahhabism.”

Imbalanced Propaganda

As for Rauf “defending bin Laden violence,” Emerson apparently was referring to remarks that Rauf made to an audience in Australia in 2005 about the history of U.S. and Western mistreatment of people in the Middle East.

“We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims,” Rauf said. “You may remember that the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, [she] said it was worth it.”

Emerson purported to “fact check” Rauf’s statement on the death toll from the Iraq sanctions by claiming “a report by the British government said at most only 50,000 deaths could be attributed to the sanctions, which were brought on by the actions by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.”

What Emerson’s “fact check” ignored, however, was that Rauf was accurately recounting Leslie Stahl’s questioning of Secretary of State Albright on CBS “60 Minutes” in 1996. Emerson also left out the fact that United Nations studies did conclude that those U.S.-led sanctions caused the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five.

In the 1996 interview, Stahl told Albright regarding the sanctions, “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”

Later, an academic study by Columbia University’s Richard Garfield put the sanctions-related death toll of Iraqi children, under five, at 106,000 to 227,000.

Emerson didn’t identify the specific British report that contained his lower figure, although even that number – 50,000 – represents a stunning death toll and doesn’t contradict Rauf’s chief point, that U.S.-British actions have killed many innocent Muslims over the years.

Also, by 2005, when Rauf made his remarks in Australia, the United States and Great Britain had invaded and occupied Iraq, with a death toll spiraling from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands with some estimates of war-related deaths in Iraq now exceeding one million.

Far from “defending bin Laden violence,” Rauf’s comments simply reflected the truth about the indiscriminate killing inflicted on the Muslim world by U.S.-British interventions over the decades. British imperialism in the region dates back several centuries, a point that Emerson also ignored. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Islam Basher Claims to Unmask Cleric.”]

It is Emerson’s kind of anti-Muslim propaganda that has infected the ability of the U.S. political system to deal fairly with Middle Eastern issues. Rep. King’s one-sided hearings became another opportunity to exacerbate American hostility toward Muslims.

Emerson has boasted about his role in helping to structure King’s hearings, but lashed out at King when the congressman refused to include Emerson on the witness list. “I was even going to bring in a special guest today and a VERY informed and connected source, who could have been very useful, possibly even critical to your hearing, but he too will not attend unless I do,” Emerson wrote to King. “You have caved in to the demands of radical Islamists in removing me as a witness.”

In a particularly weird twist, Emerson somehow envisioned himself as the victim of McCarthyism because he wasn’t being allowed to go before the House Homeland Security Committee and accuse large segments of the American-Muslim community of being un-American. [Politico, Jan. 19, 2011]

But such is the strange world of the propagandists who have managed to associate the crime of “terrorism” almost exclusively with Muslims, when the ugly reality is that the blood of innocents covers the hands of adherents to many other faiths (and political movements) as well.

It is that sort of anti-Muslim bigotry which feeds the Christian Right terrorism of an Anders Behring Breivik.

[In the wake of Breivik’s killing spree, the Center for American Progress produced a report on the well-funded bigotry of Emerson and other Muslim-bashers. Entitled “Fear, Inc.,” the 129-page report listed Emerson as one of five “scholars” who act as “misinformation experts” to “generate the false facts and materials” that are then exploited by politicians and pundits to frighten Americans about the supposed threat posed by Muslims. To read more on Emerson’s “misinformation” role, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Unmasking October Surprise ‘Debunker.'”]

 


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, “Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,” was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, “Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq” and “Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’” are also available there.

Fearmonger Does Little to Improve Conversation on Terrorism

Posted in Loon People, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2012 by loonwatch

Fearmonger does little to improve conversation on terrorism

by John L. Smith

For Steve Emerson, the danger is very clear and very present: A surprising number of American officials and institutions are in the tank to Islamic extremists and their handmaidens.

Emerson accuses the Obama administration of being infiltrated by radical followers of Islam inside our own country and throughout the world.

That’s right. Infiltrated.

Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, spent an hour last week with the Review-Journal editorial board and was accompanied by Elliot Karp, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. In the short time Emerson spent at the newspaper, he managed to indict a number of law enforcement institutions and officers as patsies for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic extremists in our midst.

For one, there’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Emerson said the FBI is so focused not offending Islamist and Arabic groups with allegiances to Hamas and Hezbollah that it’s getting in the way of anti-terrorism investigations.

“The agents on the ground understand exactly what’s going on,” Emerson says cryptically of the bureau’s political atmosphere. When asked to elaborate, he replies, “I have to protect my sources.”

Forgive me, but I thought the FBI was doing a pretty good job on the terrorism front. Turns out they’re falling down on the job.

It’s OK, though. Emerson has confidence in his own ability to spot the terrorists among us. He brags that his sources are “sometimes even better than the bureau.”

He adds that his field intelligence was superior to the FBI’s in part because “informants are more likely to work for us.”

That’s not all. He also has the sneaking suspicion that a talk he was scheduled to give to a group of CIA operatives was derailed by the Obama administration. Who knew President Barack Obama had enough hours in the day to dispatch CIA Director David Petraeus to teach Emerson a lesson?

Then there’s Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. In 2010, Baca was honored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has been linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. CAIR also actively challenges Muslim stereotypes and presents the Islamic side of issues.

“He believes CAIR is a wonderful organization,” Emerson says sarcastically. ” … I’m not calling him evil, or fundamentally stupid, but he is in bed with the bad guys.”

Obviously, Emerson isn’t shy about pointing fingers. Nor is he simply a sign-waving conspiracy theorist. His allies on the right consider him a Cassandra who warns us about the dangers of Islamic extremism at home and abroad, and especially as it affects Israel. He pens op-ed pieces in major newspapers, is often quoted on television and radio talk shows, is cheered on the speaking circuit, and has a loyal following on his website. He is a leading firebrand from the school of thought that goes something like, “Not all Muslims are plotting terrorist acts, just most of them.”

He claims he is the victim of “a fatwa by NPR” largely because National Public Radio officials don’t invite him on their programs these days. But you can still catch plenty of Emerson’s opinions in a variety of media and networks.

Lest you think he’s just a right-wing extremist out to frighten people, Emerson repeats often that his work is dangerous and he has received many threats. He says things like “I’ve got to look over my shoulder every day,” and “If I had a wife and kids, I couldn’t do this.”

Certainly not. He made it sound a little dangerous just sitting in the room with him.

That’s Emerson’s problem whether you believe he’s full of facts or fudge. His hyperbolic rhetoric plays well on the fundraising circuit, but it does nothing to forward the understanding of complex issues.

The Middle East is a political tinderbox. There’s heated talk of possible U.S. and Israeli military intervention in Iran to halt its development of nuclear technology.

At the risk of becoming part of a vast conspiracy to silence Steve Emerson, that complex conversation isn’t improved by his shouts of conspiracy at the highest levels of our government.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

$42 Million From Seven Foundations Helped Fuel The Rise Of Islamophobia In America

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2011 by loonwatch

money bags

A very interesting report on the funding of the anti-Muslim movement. It is unfortunate that despite a few citations there is scant mention of our taking the haters on day in and day out for over two years.

REPORT: $42 Million From Seven Foundations Helped Fuel The Rise Of Islamophobia In America

By Faiz Shakir on Aug 26, 2011 at 9:30 am

Following a six-month long investigative research project, the Center for American Progress released a 130-page report today which reveals that more than $42 million from seven foundations over the past decade have helped fan the flames of anti-Muslim hate in America. The authors — Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and myself — worked to expose the Islamophobia network in depth, name the major players, connect the dots, and trace the genesis of anti-Muslim propaganda.

The report, titled “Fear Inc.: The Roots Of the Islamophobia Network In America,” lifts the veil behind the hate, follows the money, and identifies the names of foundations who have given money, how much they have given, and who they have given to:

The money has flowed into the hands of five key “experts” and “scholars” who comprise the central nervous system of anti-Muslim propaganda:

FRANK GAFFNEY, Center for Security Policy – “A mosque that is used to promote a seditious program, which is what Sharia is…that is not a protected religious practice, that is in fact sedition.” [Source]

DAVID YERUSHALMI, Society of Americans for National Existence: “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization…the Muslim peoples, those committed to Islam as we know it today, are our enemies.” [Source]

DANIEL PIPES, Middle East Forum: “All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” [Source]

ROBERT SPENCER, Jihad Watch: “Of course, as I have pointed out many times, traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful. It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.” [Source]

STEVEN EMERSON, Investigative Project on Terrorism: “One of the world’s great religions — which has more than 1.4 billion adherents — somehow sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine.” [Source]

These five “scholars” are assisted in their outreach efforts by Brigitte Gabriel (founder, ACT! for America), Pamela Geller (co-founder, Stop Islamization of America), and David Horowitz (supporter of Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch). As the report details, information is then disseminated through conservative organizations like the Eagle Forum, the religious right, Fox News, and politicians such as Allen West and Newt Gingrich.

Over the past few years, the Islamophobia network (the funders, scholars, grassroots activists, media amplifiers, and political validators) have worked hard to push narratives that Obama might be a Muslim, that mosques are incubators of radicalization, and that “radical Islam” has infiltrated all aspects of American society — including the conservative movement.

To explain how the Islamophobia network operates, we’ve produced this video to show just one example of how they have mainstreamed the baseless and unfounded fear that Sharia may soon replace American laws:

*We published this piece earlier but took it down for technical reasons.

Gov. Chris Christie Slams Islamophobic Criticism of Sohail Mohammad

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2011 by loonwatch

Unfortunately there aren’t many other GOP leaders willing to take the stand that Chris Christie did.

Gov. Christie’s stand is a sigh of relief in an age of Islamophobiapalooza, especially from a high profile GOP official. Sadly, Gov.Christie’s righteous stand for Sohail Mohammad is an exception in today’s politics.

This incident also further highlights the shoddy work of Islamophobe Steven Emerson, who is caught once again being full of BS.

N.J. Governor: ‘This Shariah law business is crap’

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday slammed the anti-Muslim “crazies” who have raised objections to his nomination of a Muslim lawyer to become a state Superior Court judge.

“Ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammad,” Christie said in response to a reporter’s question at a Thursday press conference. “Sohail Mohammad is an extraordinary American who is an outstanding lawyer and played an integral role in the post-September 11th period in building bridges between the Muslim American community in this state and law enforcement.”

Critics have used the very track record Christie cited to depict Mohammad, an Indian-American, as a radical unfit for the bench. Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism in January derided Mohammad as a “longtime mouthpiece for radical Islamists”. Emerson traced Mohammad’s career back to his work as an immigration lawyer on behalf of Arab men who were detained after 9/11.

Christie pointed out that many people were wrongly arrested during that time, and that none of Mohammad’s post-9/11 clients were charged with crimes of terrorism. Christie added that Mohammad set up “dozens of meetings” between government and law enforcement officials and members of the Muslim-American community to build lines of trust.

A reporter asked Christie a question about Shariah law, which only fired up the governor’s frustration. “Shariah law has nothing to do with this at all. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. The guy is an American citizen … and has never been accused of doing anything but honorably and zealously acquitting the oath he took when he became a lawyer…. This Shariah law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies. It’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background…. I’m happy that he’s willing to serve after all this baloney.”

Hatewatch, 4 August 2011

Fethullah Gulen: Despite Attacks Good Works Shine Through

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Blogs, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2010 by loonwatch

An interesting report on Sufi leader Fethullah Gulen and the wild conspiracies thrown out against him and his Hizmet (Service) movement. Conspiracies of “militants” being trained at a Pennsylvania retreat that houses Gulen are debunked, though unfortunately space and weight is given to anti-Muslim bigots and Islamophobes Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson, whose commentary is near worthless on these matters.

Daniel Pipes argues from conspiracy, essentially asserting that Gulen is a “stealth Jihadist” while Emerson who is well known as being in the anti-Muslim game for cash money can at most offer the meek “we don’t know” if Gulen is a radical. Sorry to burst your bubble Emerson, but we do know –Gulen is NOT a “radical.” Only in your cerebral world in which every Muslim is guilty until proven innocent can we entertain the question of whether Gulen, a Sufi leader of an inspirational organization that fosters interfaith dialogue, ecumenicism, opens exceptional schools for the poor be considered “radical.”

Imam who lives in rural Pennsylvania arouses praise, concerns

By Andrew Conte

SAYLORSBURG — Just a short drive on a two-lane road from the Dunkin’ Donuts here, the Golden Generation Retreat Center hardly seems like the home of one of the world’s leading Islamic thinkers.

A metal gate at the driveway stands open, and no fences or walls protect the 25-acre property from suburban homes and rolling hillsides nearby. Officials recently invited their neighbors to celebrate the opening of a three-story meeting center and share a Thanksgiving feast.

“They’re friendly people,” said Rod Schreck, 74, who lives within walking distance.

“Put it this way,” his wife, Maxine, 69, said, “they’re better to us than we are to them.”

Still, mystery surrounds the center’s most famous guest, Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam who has lived here for 11 years after arriving in the United States for medical treatments. Gulen practices Sufism, a mystical form of Islam that requires strict religious observation, austerity and abstinence, according to one of his more than 60 books.

“We are for one thing: peace and prosperity in the world for everyone,” said Bekir Aksoy, president of the retreat center. “There is no ‘them’ for us. All humanity is one.”

After coming here, Gulen was tried — and then acquitted — in Turkey on charges related to inciting an overthrow of the government. He might face criminal charges again if he returned home, a supporter in Istanbul said. And that could trigger chaos.

So Gulen remains in this rural community about 30 miles northeast of Allentown and less than a two-hour drive from Manhattan. He lives alone in one room of the large main house and owns only the toiletries and small possessions in his bedroom, Aksoy said.

Debilitated by health issues — he has heart, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure problems — Gulen, 69, was not well enough to meet with a reporter during a recent visit, Aksoy said.

The ongoing mystery around Gulen breeds suspicion, particularly since the 9/11 terror attacks added to Americans’ unease with Islam. Some research groups raise questions about Gulen’s real intentions. Yet, some contend he is no different from any other religious leader.

Concerns in the United States about Gulen and the spread of Islam are rooted in ignorance and misunderstanding, said Terry Rey, chair of the Department of Religion at Temple University, which co-hosted a conference on Gulen with his supporters this month.

“Any religious movement that begins to draw people is a threat to someone,” Rey said. “As a scholar of religion, I can contextualize it, and I cannot see it as anything fundamentally different from what has always gone on.”

AN ENIGMA

Internet rumors say the retreat center was used as a militia training ground and schools started by Gulen’s admirers are brainwashing children.

An article published last year by the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based policy group, suggested Gulen’s supporters control $25 billion and could be plotting a religious takeover of Turkey’s government, a secular republic.

Daniel Pipes, the nonprofit’s director, called Gulen dangerous. Pipes said he could be “perhaps the most sophisticated Islamist leader in the world” for eschewing violence and extremism but still seeking to apply Islamic religious law.

“He’s a bit of a mystery,” said Steven Emerson, an expert on Islamic extremists. “The question is, is he a radical or not?”

Michael Werz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, described Gulen as a moderate who spoke out against terrorism and supported interfaith dialogue.

“He’s a pretty middle-of-the-road guy,” said Werz, who plans to speak Tuesday at an event hosted by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

The government allowed Gulen to remain in the country as an alien worker with “extraordinary ability” since he won a court ruling in 2008 that overturned an initial denial by immigration officials.

Rumors that the retreat center is being used to create an army are unfounded, said Howard Beers Jr., chairman of the board of supervisors in Ross Township in Monroe County, home of Golden Generation. His construction company built the retreat center’s facility.

“That’s so far-fetched,” he said. “People love to make up crap, and they know if they make that up, someone will believe them.”

A state police supervisor in nearby Lehighton said the retreat center has not created problems or generated emergency calls. Gulen cooperates during FBI visits, said J.J. Klaver, spokesman in the agency’s Philadelphia field office.

“We have no reason to believe anything other than what he says is going on there, is going on,” Klaver said.

Nothing obvious about the retreat center suggests that it could be a training ground for militants, either.

Newly constructed guest houses surround the meeting center. The houses hold up to 80 visitors, who come from around the world and stay for days at a time, said Steve Sablak, vice president of the retreat center.

The buildings appear clean and modern, with a granite countertop and plastic furniture in one kitchen. Visitors’ clothes spilled out of small suitcases in a room lined with Turkish futons, and children’s toys, including a Bob the Builder doll and a plastic ball, sat on the floor.

‘FANTASTICALLY DISORGANIZED’

The understated campus belies the wide reach of Gulen’s teachings.

Readers of Foreign Policy magazine voted Gulen the world’s leading public intellectual in 2008. A report by Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst last year called him a polarizing figure in Turkey.

The number of people inspired by Gulen is estimated at more than 5 million.

Gulen’s supporters belong to a “fantastically disorganized organization,” said the Rev. Walter Wagner, a Lutheran minister and adjunct professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. They do not report to a central authority or maintain membership lists.

These people often refer to themselves as “volunteers” rather than followers. The movement — another term they shun — is typically known in the United States as hizmet, for the Turkish word for service. Turks refer to the group as cemaat, the word for a religious community.

Gulen’s influence emanates from the schools founded by those inspired by his words, said Yvonne Haddad, a professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in Washington. The schools, located in 120 countries, typically emphasize math and science over religion, with the goal of educating young people in poor areas.

“Conspiracy theories are everywhere,” Haddad said. “I have looked at the material and interviewed people. As far as I know, it’s no different than any other” school connected to a religious group.

Huseyin Gulerce, a columnist in Istanbul with the pro-Gulen Turkish newspaper Zaman, said the movement stresses three points: education, dialogue and communication.

“The first thing when I think about Fethullah Gulen and his movement is their schools,” said Emin Kahveci, 25, a graphic designer in Istanbul.

Gulen’s admirers started a school in Monroeville, called the Snowdrop Science Academy, in 2005. But the school closed four years later because it did not have enough students, a former administrator said.

Americans, like all people, could learn from Gulen’s sermons, said Mahmut Demir, president of the Turkish Cultural Center Pittsburgh in Dormont. The center typically draws 100 to 200 people for dinners and events related to Turkey and interfaith communication.

“(Gulen) is open to all different ideas,” said Demir, a doctoral candidate in physics at the University of Pittsburgh. “He respects people’s choices. … Everybody can learn something from this man who teaches nothing but peace and tolerance.”

Free-lance writer Ali Abaday in Turkey contributed to this report.

 

John Sugg: What the People in Nashville Know about Steven Emerson

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2010 by loonwatch

John Sugg tears Steven Emerson a new one.

John Sugg on why won’t the Tampa Trib tell you what people in Nashville know about Steve Emerson?

John F. Sugg was editor of the Weekly Planet in the 1990s, and group senior editor of Creative Loafing Newspapers until he retired in 2008.  In his tenure, he reported extensively on the Sami Al-Arian story.  After recent negative news broke about terrorism “expert” Steven Emerson, Sugg contacted CL about filing this post.

Steven Emerson, a self-styled terrorism expert, is a guy who had a profound and caustic impact on Tampa for more than a decade. Emerson has had much less of an impact on another city, Nashville, although his corrosive brand of often-inaccurate smear jobs recently slithered into Tennessee.

Still, Nashville’s citizens know a whole lot more about Emerson than folks in Tampa, despite his relatively recent arrival on the Tennessee hate-Muslim soapbox, where he jostles for the limelight with loopy religious fanatics and just plain old-fashioned Southern bigots.

Why that imbalance of knowledge about Emerson? The answer lies in a horrible miscarriage of journalism committed over many years by The Tampa Tribune, a series of atrocities the Trib could easily correct by just providing a dash of fair and accurate reporting, something history indicates the newspaper won’t do. Nashville should be grateful that it has a newspaper, The Tennessean, which unlike the Trib will fearlessly dig out the truth.

In tandem with his vassal reporter at the Tampa Trib, Michael Fechter, Emerson waged a decade-long jihad against a professor at the University of South Florida, Sami Al-Arian, accused by Emerson and Fechter of being a terrorist mastermind. Emerson and Fechter were backed by a shadowy network of former federal agents and foreign spooks, notably a disinformation specialist for Israel’s ultra-right Likud party named Yigal Carmon and a controversial ex-FBI official named Oliver “Buck” Revell – and a lot of money whose origins have never been revealed.

However, where their information came from was clear. As the great Israeli newspaper Ha’aretzexplained before Al-Arian’s 2005 federal trial: “Israel owns much of the copyright for the case; a well-informed source termed the prosecution an ‘American-Israeli co-production.’ The Americans are running the show, but behind the scenes it was the Israelis who for years collected material (and) transmitted information…” How did they transmit information? In part, via “secret evidence” slipped to our federales, evidence and accusers Al-Arian wasn’t allowed to confront (who needs that nasty old Sixth Amendment?). But reporters were also conduits for scurrilous “intelligence” claims. Fechter himself wrote that “former and current senior Israeli intelligence officials” loaded his stories with information. Those allegations, many ludicrous on their face, were rejected by a federal jury, despite a highly prejudiced judge and rulings that, if they had been issued against Martin Luther King Jr. would have prevented him from mentioning Jim Crow in his defense.

Over the years, while a Weekly Planet and Creative Loafing editor, I had a great deal of fun exposing Emerson, and the prevarications by Fechter and the federal government. I tried to put into contextwhat the anti-Muslim crusaders were up to. I joined a rather elite cadre of journalists that had tangled with Emerson – including famed investigative reporters Seymour Hersh, Robert I. Friedman and Robert Parry, who provided me with insight into Emerson’s real agenda.

Emerson filed two bogus lawsuits against me, the Weekly Planet (AKA Creative Loafing) and an AP reporter who had told me about questions he had had over the provenance of a document Emerson gave the news service. We obtained a court order that would have forced Emerson to produce real proof of his allegations – and he knew we were digging into who he really was and who paid his bills – so he ran away from the fight he started; the good guys (me, for example) prevailed.

It’s noteworthy that a number of dispassionate analysts had observations similar to mine. New York University scholar Zachary Lockman, for example, (as quoted on “Right Web”) wrote in 2005: “[Emerson’s] main focus during the 1990s was to sound the alarm about the threat Muslim terrorists posed to the United States. By the end of that decade Emerson was describing himself as a ‘terrorist expert and investigator’ and ‘Executive Director, Terrorism Newswire, Inc.’ Along the way, critics charged, Emerson had sounded many false alarms, made numerous errors of fact, bandied accusations about rather freely, and ceased to be regarded as credible by much of the mainstream media . The September 11 attacks seemed to bear out Emerson’s warnings, but his critics might respond that even a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day.”

Again, it’s sadly significant that the Trib never even provided such mild doses of context about its primary source, Emerson, in its inflammatory, intentionally erroneous and misleading, and often racist diatribes against Al-Arian. The Trib still gives Emerson ink – never questioning his claims and guilt-by-association-and-innuendo tactics, and never vetting his background, associations, financing and motives.

Some insight on Emerson’s millions has now been provided by The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, citing the Tennessean’s reports, on Oct. 26 awarded Emerson his nightly “Worst Person in the World” citation. Olbermann expressed regret that the network had previously used Emerson as a chattering head on terrorism topics. (Similarly, CBS did not renew its contract with Emerson after he claimed that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing had “a Middle Eastern trait” because it was carried out “with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.” That was a big “Oops.”)

The Tennessean reported that Emerson collects money through a non-profit, the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, and then funnels that money to his for-profit SAE (as in Steven A. Emerson) Productions. Quoting Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group, the Nashville paper reported: “Basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit. It’s wrong. This is off the charts.”

That little bit of information on Emerson, contained in one report, is far more than the Trib told you about Emerson over a decade – despite Emerson using the Trib to provoke a legal firestorm that is still ongoing.

You do recall the firestorm, right? Emerson and Fechter launched a series of series of attacks on Muslims. No amount of hyperbole and vitriol-spewing was considered excessive by the Trib or Emerson. Fechter, for example, darkly hinted that the FBI found documents about MacDill Air Force Base among Al-Arian’s papers, insinuating some dastardly design. Nope. Al-Arian had twice been invited to speak to large groups of military and intelligence officers, and the sinister documents were, well, just the hand-out materials. Fechter, following the lead of his guru, Emerson, also tried to blame the Oklahoma City bombing on Arabs, an egregiously false story the Trib has never seen fit to correct. Emerson, meanwhile, said in February 1996 that Palestinian advocates at USF were involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Emerson promised proof “in the near term.” The proof never came, and the Justice Department said it had no records supporting the allegation.

You think the Trib might have called Emerson on that one? Hahaha.

The former head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Robert O’Neill, twice concluded during the 1990s there was no evidence to prosecute Al-Arian, according to my multiple sources in the Justice Department. I don’t like quoting anonymous sources so I’ll be clear: O’Neill, now the U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Middle District, himself told me he had looked at the evidence and found no reason to prosecute. In 1998, the then FBI counterterrorism chief Bob Blitzer also told me “no federal laws were broken” by the Tampa Muslims.

Yet, after 9/11, propelled by hate-Muslim diatribes from Bill O’Reilly (who had been funneled highly slanted information by Fechter) and the fear by Jeb Bush that the University of South Florida would conclude a settlement with Al-Arian that would prove embarrassing to the Bushite regimes in Washington and Tallahassee, the federal government indicted Al-Arian. The trial concluded with the government failing to win a single guilty verdict against Al-Arian or his co-defendants, an immense disaster for the Bush Justice Department.

Al-Arian later plea bargained in order to preclude another trial on counts on which the jury didn’t reach a verdict – although notably no more than two jurors felt he was guilty on even those “hung” counts.  Al-Arian’s plea bargain stipulated that he had had no involvement in terrorist activities. Rather, he had provided some minor support to people who might have become terrorists, although it’s clear from the trial that any such activities by Al-Arian occurred when they were legal. The plea agreement supposedly ended all business between Al-Arian and the federal government. However, due to legal chicanery by a rogue federal prosecutor in Virginia, Gordon Kromberg – who has been called a doppelganger of Emerson – Al-Arian remains entangled in federal courts and on house arrest.

According to my federal sources, the Al-Arian case cost our government at least $50 million, and, no, the Trib and Emerson didn’t offer to pay part of the bill (you and I had that honor). And, with so many FBI agents chasing a guy whose “guilt” was mostly in exercising his First Amendment rights, the FBI missed another fellow flitting around Florida, a real terrorist with blood on his mind, Mohammed Atta.

The final chapters in the Trib’s pogroms against Muslims had a sadly humorous angle. Fechter, who had long been a tool of Emerson’s, finally got slightly honest and went to work for his mentor. And Fechter dumped his wife and children and shacked up with one of the federal prosecutors who tried Al-Arian. I don’t recall where Fechter got his journalism training, but he must have skipped the classes on journalistic objectivity and not sleeping with your sources.

So, The Tennessean’s articles might have provided an excellent opportunity for the Trib to revisit and maybe heal a terrible wound it was complicit in inflicting in Tampa. On Friday, I asked TribManaging Editor Richard “Duke” Maas if he had such an inclination – heck, I inquired, aren’t you interested in what The Tennessean wrote about a guy who had so much impact on Tampa and your newspaper? Well, not really, Maas responded, sounding more irritated than journalistically curious. He added that Fechter had left the newspaper, which I gather meant he felt the Trib was thereby absolved of responsibility.

If you happen to have a spare backbone, you might send it to the pathetic folks at The Tampa Tribune.

John F. Sugg was editor of the Weekly Planet in the 1990s, and group senior editor of Creative Loafing Newspapers until he retired in 2008.

 

Keith Olbermann: Steven Emerson: “The Worst Person in the World”

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2010 by loonwatch

O’Reilly was the runner up for his “Muslim problem” theme, but Emerson took the cake by being a sleazy scoundrel laundering non-for profit money to his for-profit outfit. Counter terrorism sure makes you a pretty penny.

Keith Olbermann: Steven Emerson “The Worst Person in the World”
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640