In the light of John Podesta’s position as one of Barack Obama’s top three transition team leaders and the central role the Center for American Progress (CAP) is likely to have in molding the next administration’s policies, some might ask what this think-tank’s influential position will mean for the War on Terror.
Bill Schultz, a senior fellow at CAP, offered a clue during his presentation at Georgetown University’s symposia on “The Future of U.S. Religious Freedom: Recommendations for the New Administration,” held this October.
Schultz began his presentation by asserting that “there has been within Islam, elements of a significant threat” not only to the world, but also to Muslims themselves. “To deny that is just plain stupid,” he said. However, Schultz later argued that “It doesn’t help to conflate all uses of terror by Muslims…This is as counterproductive as assuming that the [Irish Republican Army], the Shining Path, the Christian Identity movement of Timothy McVeigh, and bombers of abortion clinics are all motivated by the same thing simply because they’re all Christian.”
(Actually, Peru’s Shining Path was a Maoist organization which denounced Stalinist Russia as untrue to the proletariat revolution envisioned by Karl Marx. Its members might be surprised to hear that its communist doctrines, traditionally hostile to all religion, somehow were intended to further the Christian cause).
Schultz, whose CAP biography states that he “is regularly quoted in the New York Times and other national publications,” strongly condemned the 2005 documentary Obsession: Radical Islam’s War with the West as destructive to the War on Terror. “It doesn’t help to use inflammatory language and tactics that both exacerbate the fears of Americans and offend the very people we’re trying to persuade to stand up to the terrorists in the first place,” he argued.
“If I were of a conspiratorial path of mind, it’s almost like the makers of this film and their admirers were a fake columnist sent out by al-Qaeda to make its job easier,” Schultz said. “But then Al-Qaeda didn’t have to do that because the first thing it doesn’t help is for the United States to play right into the terrorists’ hands.”
Schultz said not to “get me wrong here” because “no matter how U.S. policies may have alienated the Muslim world, there is no excuse for the outbreak of terrorism…” He then condemned the U.S.-backing of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, notable human rights violators, and attempts to spread democracy “at the point of a gun” rather than by persuasion, saying that these and other U.S. foreign policy mistakes hand “terrorists a golden gift on a silver platter.”
Schultz’s complaints about the film included that:
1.) “The film admits that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate, but virtually no moderate voices appear on the screen;”
2.) the documentary featured an “unrelenting pastiche of clips of extremists spewing their hate against the West;”
3.) the documentary “conflates” many types of Islam-related extremism, such as groups in Chechnya and Iran, and
4.) Sean Hannity condemns Islam, not radical Islam, in the movie trailer.
“It’s important to remember, most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror,” begins the Obsession documentary. “This is not a film about them.”
“This is a film about a radical worldview, and the threat it poses to us all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.”
The documentary does, in some cases, forget to differentiate between radicals and moderate Muslims. For example, 43 minutes into the film former Hitler Youth member Alfons Heck says that “Hitler committed a crime against young Germans. [It] took me a long time to see that, but what the Muslims do to their own children is even worse.” (emphasis added).
“They tell Arab children that Jews bake cookies with their blood,” says Nonie Darwish, labeled as a “Daughter of a Shahid (Martyr).”
Obsession then immediately cuts to a 2003 Al-Manar TV broadcast depicting Jews slaughtering a Christian boy for matzoh.
David Horowitz encouraged participants in his Islamofascism Week II to screen Obsession alongside other films such as Islam versus Islam, Suicide Killers, and Path to 9/11. His Terrorism Awareness Project was met with considerable campus resistance at George Washington University and sparked tensions at Emory University, among others.
Horowitz, the makers of Obsession, Pepperdine University professor Joseph Loconte, Rick Santorum, Christopher Hitchens, and others, each believe that Islamic extremism worldwide has a fascist, or Nazi, element. This idea forms the key message of Obsession.
“The idea that the radical Muslims have and that Nazis had is that they demonize the Jews. You know, they just turn them into demons and, I mean, this is exactly what happened in Germany. Now can you imagine, we were enlightened people and we fell for this. Why wouldn’t Muslims fall for this?” says Heck for the film.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was originally intended as Schultz’s fellow panelist, but declined due to a family matter. His Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) colleague Keith Pavlischeck, speaking in his stead, questioned the definitions of moderate used by the State Department and other branches of government.
“So here’s the deal: If you believe that there ought to be civil sanctions against those who change their religion—particularly in the Islamic world—convert from Islam into another faith, that there should be civil sanctions, much less punishment by death, you don’t get to be called moderate,” he argued.
“You may not be a terrorist but you ain’t moderate.”
He continued, “…You call Jews pigs and monkeys, you don’t. Oh by the way, if you have in your charter—If you quote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Hamas letter, you don’t get to be called moderate, okay. You may not be an al-Qaeda terrorist bringing the jihad to the West, but you don’t get to be called moderate.”
Schultz took a softer line, saying that what America needs is to “dry up the sea” that fosters extremism and convince the Islamic majority that “terrorists are dead-enders.” “This has worked successfully in every society that has successfully combated terrorism, from North Ireland to Peru to any number of other contexts. This is the way to defeat them,” said Schultz.
Actually, the disempowerment of the Shining Path guerillas had less to do with undermining the movement’s popular support—something it had never garnered—so much as undermining the cooperative relationship between the guerillas and narcotics dealers (and their farmers), a situation not unlike the one which has arisen more recently in Afghanistan.
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.