Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 18, 2015

Penitence at the White House

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 18, 2015

On Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday — according to some calendars — the White House is hosting its Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.   The sessions are being live-streamed.  I was airborne most of Tuesday, but was able to see/hear some of this morning’s.  You might still be able to catch this afternoon’s, including remarks by the President.

Summit planning has been underway for a long-while.  The meeting is a follow-on to a similar 2011 set of sessions.  This week’s dates were set after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Tuesday there were mostly presentations by Boston, Los Angeles, and the Twin Cities (MN) on pilot programs they have run to counter violent extremism.  According to a “Senior Administration Official” the Wednesday session covers:

… The comprehensive “whole of nation” approach that we’re applying to the challenge.  Again, this is not about government, especially the federal government. The federal government doesn’t have all the answers.  This is about building a comprehensive network to fight back against violent extremism.  And we are explicitly recognizing the role that civil society plays, the private sector plays, and that families, et cetera, can play in countering violent extremism. During Wednesday’s agenda, we will have remarks by the President; by the Secretary of Homeland Security; by Lisa Monaco, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, in addition to the presentations from the three cities, from around the world, and from some private sector partners.

When I landed at Dulles Tuesday evening and turned off airplane mode my smartphone nearly exploded. Several dozen folks had sent me links to either (both): Graeme Wood’s piece on What ISIS Really Wants in The Atlantic or Roger Cohen’s op-ed in the Tuesday New York Times (which I had read on the plane).  There were also two links to comments made by Pope Francis regarding the Coptic “martyrs” killed by IS provincials in what many still call Libya. There was also yet another link to the video of the Sunni grandmother condemning ISIS fighters and urging them to turn from darkness. (If you haven’t seen it, probably should, especially given what I write below.)

Many of those sending me these links complain the White House summit is working too hard to gloss the religious — really Islamic — character of extremist violence.  Wednesday’s USA Today includes a similar complaint. For what it’s worth, what I have heard on the live-stream does not discount the religious dimension.  Rather the religious dimension is treated as correlation rather than causation.  This is a valid — valuable — post-Enlightenment distinction.

Moreover when I read  what I can find about our most recent murderers in Boston, Ottawa, Sydney, Paris, and Copenhagen, I perceive motivations much more related to self-aggrandizing popular media than the self-abnegation of most religious traditions or the specifically Islamic emphasis on submission.

Still… I will  admit, that as a person of faith, I recognize an especially pernicious religious dimension to much of our violent extremism.  Self-righteousness is not restricted to the religious, but it does seem deeply correlated.  There can be a specifically religious tendency to conflate our own desires with those of God.  There can be a specifically religious tendency to exclude from God’s love and mercy those with whom I happen to disagree.

Then with my self wrapped as God and others excluded, it is all too easy to mistake profound sin for religious devotion. Of course, this is idolatry.  But most modern versions come cleverly disguised.

Happy Mardi Gras.  May you have a holy Lent.



Here’s today’s Op-Ed on the summit’s topic in the Los Angeles Times by President Obama.  Here’s a critique of the Op-Ed from the American Spectator.  Here’s a more general critique by The Federalist.

Here’s the CSPAN coverage of the President’s remarks at today’s White House Summit. Some other related links are also available.

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Comment by Christopher Tingus

February 18, 2015 @ 11:38 am

Ash Wednesday for many Christians and a 40 day fast as we all move forward to Easter celebration! How glorious that we celebrate our Christianity freely as others celebrate their religious choice in our great Republic without imposing upon one another, but Respecting one another and our choices….

While we here in Boston are snowbound and more to come and many, many challenged with some 74 roofs this past week falling in under the weight of heavy snows and yet fortunately to date, no one hurt, I looked at the WH summit and its participants and from my perspective clearly see this eight year WH resident’s objective which do not please me as well as many others, however what was troubling is the blatant and intentional dismissal of more “Christians” beheaded and this WH turning its cheek and NOT calling a spade and spade as the saying goes….Egyptians beheaded, well maybe, but surely the intent, to behead “Christians” and this global Jihad is well on its way and we have a WH executive who again, should be held for breach in faith, treason for enabling our enemy, Muslim fundamentalists to win back enemy combatants from Gitmo etc.

By the way, now that this WH and the Rev Wright who feel that Tehran should have WMD in hand as long as the “Zionists” have such in hand as the illustrious Rev Wright said clearly in ’08, how many multiple launchers do they now have and how many WMD’s will they have in the coming months as We here on “Main Street USA” see War looming ahead full as sure as the iceberg that sunk the Titanic!

W/no real American leadership and an eight year WH resident who has done its best to lean to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim faith and people over our Judeo-Christian principles and our nation and principles so founded and established….the world so riddled w/corruption and self-serving agenda such as this White House, well, the road ahead treacherous indeed! No question!

This morning’s news is really troublesome to at least the western world in the 21st century which I read in Newsmax:

Iraq Envoy to UN: Islamic State Might be Harvesting Organs
Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015 06:29 AM

Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations asked the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to look at allegations that the Islamic State group is using organ harvesting as a way to finance its operations.

Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim told reporters that in the past few weeks, bodies with surgical incisions and missing kidneys or other body parts have been found in shallow mass graves.

“We have bodies. Come and examine them,” he said. “It is clear they are missing certain parts.”

He also said a dozen doctors have been “executed” in Mosul for refusing to participate in organ harvesting.

Comment by Robert K. Roth IV

February 18, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

Mr. Palin:

Thanks for the background and links to the White House live-stream.

If I was not a regular reader, I would be sure that you either pose as Mr. Tingus or pay him to help make your points. Too many wanna-be prophets are self-consumed in pride. Their certainty regarding the sins of others exposes their own fecklessness.

While I’m Jewish, I’ll join you in any forty days of penitence.

Robert K. Roth

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 18, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

Thanks Phil!

Comment by Christopher Tingus

February 19, 2015 @ 10:34 am

Even the Muslim world states that Islamic fundamentalists and their global Jihad are a grave threat to humanity, but heck not this perverted White House who holds a WH conference on violence and spews nonsense about Christian terrorism when in fact the Muslim world itself is concerned about the terrorism conducted by Muslims against Muslims and instead of our country helping the leaders of the Muslim world thwart those within Muslim conducting such outrageous Middle-age acts of barbarism, Egypt must turn to France and the Kurds must turn to others and the list goes on and on for this warped and failed US WH and Barry Obama who has made it clear that he personally favors the Muslim Brotherhood and w/Michelle Obama for years listening to the narrative of outright hate towards the Hebrew stating quite clearly as the illustrious Rev Wright did from his pulpit w/the Obamas back in ’08 and both choosing to stay in the pew hearing that as long as the “Zionists” have WMD, why should Tehran not have same….

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